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Digital parking meters start trial

A Canadian company powered up several digital parking meters on downtown streets Wednesday and Thursday after a month-long delay to the start of a trial run of a new city parking program.

Vancouver-based Photo Violation Technologies Corp. has installed 96 meters that use cameras to document the licence plates of parking violators and will be turning the rest of the terminals on during the next week.

"We'll be rolling out now from street to street as we get power," said Fred Mitschele, president and CEO of Photo Violation.

City leaders agreed in December to a six-month trial run of a parking program in which Photo Violation Technologies pays to install meters and the city will keep parking fees.

The trial run was slated to begin in May but was delayed when the company had to wait for permission from the utility company to connect the meters to power sources, Mitschele said. He said the company will likely extend the trial period to make up for the delay.

Meters on sections of Third Street began running Wednesday. The meters accept cash, credit or debit cards and allow parkers who use credit cards to automatically extend the parking time to avoid tickets. Meters will also have a 15-minute grace period.

Cameras have been installed in the pavement to record the license plates of violators.

The company has also installed 15 meters that accept credit cards but do not use cameras, as well as three "pay and display" meters.

The city will only pay for the meters if it chooses to hire Photo Violation Technologies after the trial run. The meters cost about $2,500 each to install, Mitschele said.

The meters will also provide a free wireless network in the downtown area that is not yet operational but could be running within a few weeks, Mitschele said. Photo Violation has installed meters in San Francisco on a trial basis and is in talks with other California cities to run the program.

Ralph Aversa, director of the city's NFC Development Corp. and the city employee who is overseeing the parking meter installation, said the city has programmed the meters to turn off on Sundays near two churches downtown.

Parking at each meter will cost a dollar an hour.


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