Paying day fees, tickets for RR parking goes high tech
Updated 1:12 pm, Friday, December 7, 2012
Commuters who park at the downtown Fairfield and Southport railroad stations should have an easier time paying for day parking, as well as violations if they get ticketed for parking in a space without the required permit before 9 a.m. on weekdays.
Cindy Placko, director of the Fairfield Parking Authority, said Wednesday that Fairfield police officers and special police will use hand-held devices beginning Friday that will issue printed tickets and violations.
Commuters will be able to pay the $6 fee for day parking and $35 fee for a violation either online with a credit card or PayPal account or by phone at 866-658-6082.
Parking at the Fairfield Metro station is unchanged, as the lots there are managed by the state.
Police officers and specials previously had handwritten the tickets and violations, and they could be hard to read in winter or if rain damaged them.
"These will all be basically typed or printed," Placko said of the machine-issued notices.
The new tickets and violations also will be downloaded onto the town's website every evening so a commuter who loses a ticket or violation will be able to find it online. Commuters will no longer have to pay a 50-cent convenience fee to pay online, Placko said.
"We're hoping that they find it more convenient," she said. "They'll be able to read it. They'll be able to use credit cards."
Mitch Fuchs, a Fairfield resident and member of the Connecticut Metro-North Rail Commuter Council, said he likes the change that lets commuters pay for day parking or violations online with a credit card.
"A credit card makes it so much easier and so much better," he said. "Being able to use a credit card just simplifies everything."
Fuchs said he thought the system now in use for paying online, which required commuters to give their bank account information, was too intrusive.
James Cameron, a Darien resident and chairman of the council, also thinks commuters would benefit by having an easier way to pay.
"It sounds like good technology to me," he said. "It doesn't necessarily solve the problem of lack of parking at train stations, but if you have a violation, it's more convenient to pay it online.
"I think, in general, anything that makes parking more efficient and fair is a good use of technology."
Placko said a Parking Authority survey several years ago revealed that commuters want to be able to pay for day parking and violations with a credit card.
"We did pay attention to the survey," she said. "It just takes a while to get this moving."
A total of six hand-held units will be used by police, and they'll be stored and re-charged at the Fairfield Police Department, Placko said.
Placko said there was no upfront cost for the units. Instead, the company that provides them, Complus Data Innovations in Tarrytown, N.Y., will take a percentage of revenue generated by both day parking and violations. That percentage was not available Wednesday, Placko said, since details of the contract are still being negotiated. She said she hopes that figure is set by the time of the authority's next meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 12.
Placko said the Parking Authority typically issues from 200 to 250 day parking permits every day, excluding weekends and holidays, which would put annual revenue from day parking at $300,000 to $372,000. That money goes into the authority's budget for maintenance and operation expenses at the two train stations, she said.
Matt Prohaska, the authority's communications director, said the hand-held devices also will be able to check a license plate number against a database of people who have been issued permits.
"There will be a search and a full database showing if that car is part of the registered list," he said.
Police Lt. James Perez said the hand-held units initially would be used only at the two train stations, but could later be used to enforce parking time-limits on Sanford Street and the Post Road.
"The electronic tire marker takes up to three pictures per vehicle if need be," he said. "If the program succeeds, we'd like to expand it."
Perez said Complus Data Innovations also can take over sending "late letters" to motorists who have unpaid tickets.
The Parking Authority hopes in 2013 to also work with Complus Data Innovations on its permit system and possibly allow commuters to renew annual permits online, Placko said.
"That's something we're working on because right now, all the permits are done through this office, and it's cash and checks only," she said.
The Parking Authority's office is on the second floor of Sullivan-Independence Hall.
Meanwhile, Placko said a canopy above the eastbound to westbound platforms at the Fairfield Railroad Station, including along the Unquowa Road bridge that links them, will be installed and is another feature that commuters said in the survey that they want.