New parking meters would take debit, credit cards; price could rise

New parking meters that allow people to pay for spots with debit or credit cards could be coming to downtown Baton Rouge at the end of the year with the possibility that parking rates could rise.

Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District, said at Tuesday’s meeting that the upgraded meters are in the works. While most of the meters would be downtown, they would also go into other areas with paid parking around Baton Rouge, such as the Chimes Street-Highland Road area.

It costs 25 cents to park downtown for 30 minutes. Rhorer said as part of getting new meters, the rates may be raised by the Metro Council. Parking rates are low compared with similar cities, Rhorer said.

Ingolf Partenheimer, chief traffic engineer for the city-parish, said the city is evaluating bids for the meters. Right now, a review is being done to see how many meters the city-parish will need.

“We’re hoping to set up a meeting this week or early next week to finalize who we will choose for this project,” Partenheimer said.

Because the number of meters is still being finalized, no estimate for the cost of the devices is available, he said.

The new meters could work with apps to allow drivers to pay for parking through their smartphones and could identify where spots are available.

The need for new parking meters is being driven by cultural changes, Partenheimer said. “People don’t carry loose change in their vehicles and pockets like they once did,” he said. “We’re hoping by taking credit cards, the number of tickets we write will go down and our revenue will go up.”

In New Orleans, city parking meters charge a maximum of $1.50 for 2 hours of parking, said Tyler Gamble, press secretary for Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Officials in Jackson, Mississippi, said downtown parking is 25 cents for 30 minutes. In Little Rock, Arkansas, city officials said the “pay and display” meters that take credit cards charge $1.25 an hour. And a hour of parking in downtown Mobile, Alabama, costs $1.

City-parish officials are also working on adding about 500 free parking spaces under Interstate 10 and Interstate 110. Striping work is underway and funding is being sought for additional lighting. Rhorer estimates that the lighting will cost $70,000 to $80,000, far less than the cost of building a new parking garage downtown.

“Those spots would be used, not just for daily parking, but if you have big events at the River Center,” Rhorer said.

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