After a successful experiment in 2012 with a few dozen parking meters that accepted credit-card payments, Ocean City will expand the program to replace 800 traditional meters on streets near the beach and boardwalk.
The new meters would be available throughout most of the streets close to the Ocean City Boardwalk, on the north-end beachfront along Beach Road and E. Atlantic Boulevard and on the far south end along Central Avenue and 59th Street. The program also will include parking lots near the Ocean City-Longport Bridge, across from Ocean City High School, and at 14th and 59th streets. (See attached PDF for complete list.)
City Council on Thursday unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance that raises fees for the new credit-card meters from 25 cents per 15 minutes to 25 cents per 10 minutes (or $1.50 per hour). A second and potentially final vote on the ordinance is scheduled for March 28.
The fee increase would bring Ocean City an estimated $400,000 in additional revenue in the season when meters are active (May through September), according to Finance Director Frank Donato. The increase will more than cover the estimated $150,000 it will take to lease the new credit-card-capable meter caps.
But the impetus for the new credit-card program was not increased revenue but increased convenience for visitors, shoppers and residents who will no longer be required to search for quarters to feed the meters.
The meters will accept credit cards, debit cards or coins. For card payments, parking will be available only in half-hour increments. Four-hour or six-hour maximum parking limits will remain in effect.
The parking meter caps used last year were solar-powered and communicated wirelessly (through cell-phone carriers) to a back-end system that reported in real-time on revenue, low battery power and other equipment problems. Credit-card payments are accepted at each parking meter (some systems require drivers to pay at nearby kiosks).
On Thursday, Council also voted to advertise for bids from vendors that can supply the meters.