Wednesday, July 23, 2014 · 7:55 a.m.
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Some new parking meters downtown allow drivers to pay via credit card. (Photo: Contributed)

Leaders with the Chattanooga Parking Authority invested more than $700,000 in new solar-powered parking meters that take either credit cards or coins.

“The new solar-powered parking meters have been well-received, and there have been few glitches to date,” Nathan Frazier with the parking authority said via email. “While there is a learning curve implementing most any new technology, Chattanoogans are already accustomed to these machines, as they have been employed on the North Shore and along Riverfront Parkway for a few years now.”

Crews installed 40 new meters in the Riverfront and City Center districts. Those meters are similar to the ones added to the North Shore and Riverfront Parkway in 2006.

Crews also recently installed 600 new meters in other downtown locations.

Officials said the new machines reduce street clutter.

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The parking authority is working to build a Twitter following. Follow here: @chattanoogapark

Customers can also use their phones to pay at all the new meters. If they do that, they don’t have to put a receipt on the dash, and they have the option of extending meter time using the phone.

“Chattanooga is a community that has proven over and over that it is not afraid to try something new and different," Frazier said. "We tend to stay on the leading edge with new technology. Our on-street parking program shouldn’t be any different.”

There is a minimum of 75 cents per transaction for credit card usage, and Frazier said many people are already taking advantage of the option to pay with the swipe of a card.

In the past week at the 40 pay stations in the Riverfront and City Center, more than 40 percent of customers opted to use credit cards, he said.

Eighteen percent of customers who used one of the new 600 single-head meters used credit cards, he also said.

“We believe those numbers will continue to rise, as it is much more convenient to just swipe a card than to carry loose change,” he said.

By the end of the year, parking authority officials plan to roll out prepaid parking cards called smartcards that will allow customers to purchase a prepaid card at the parking authority office, located at 1398 Market St., and put a specific amount of money on that card to swipe at any meter or pay station that accept credit cards, which is currently about 60 percent of them.

All the changes are meant to make the process easier for customers, Brent Matthews, CARTA director of parking, said in a prepared statement.

“This new technology is a giant step to move us forward and provide increased customer convenience by eliminating many of the older coin meters,” he said. “We will soon take down many of the old meter poles and improve the aesthetics throughout downtown.”

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