NBPA to Spend $350K on 704 Parking Meters That Take Credit Cards

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The New Brunswick Parking Authority (NBPA) is preparing to replace hundreds of its coin-operated parking meters with newer technology, at the cost of $350,000.

The agency, which manages nine different public parking garages, a handful of surface parking lots, and handles the enforcement of on-street parking, plans to purchase 704 parking meters that accept credit cards.

The meters would be provided by IPS Group, a parking and telecommunications company based in San Diego.

At their January meeting, the NBPA's Board of Commissioners approved the first step in a public bidding process that is little more than a formality.

Because the NBPA has already invested in 124 of the IPS meters, and different electronic meter systems are not compatible with one another, the agency embarked on a bidding process where only one company could possibly win.

"It's bizarre, but it's the law," said Leonard Bier, the NBPA's attorney, who is widely regarded as one of the state's top parking experts.

After trying out two different types of credit card parking meters, the agency decided to go with the IPS brand meters, which Bier said were the industry standard.

Several IPS meters were installed on College Avenue last year, while meters produced by Milwaukee-based Duncan Solutions were previously installed in downtown.

Both companies' meters accept credit card payments or coins.  A service launched in 2013 by the NBPA, Parkmobile, also allows for credit card payments to be made at the old-fashioned meters using a smartphone, for an added fee.

Ultimately, the authority's Executive Director Mitch Karon said his team prefers IPS because the data stored in the meters downloads more quickly and easily, usually in 30 seconds or less.

The Duncan meters can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a half-hour to offload their data, Karon said.

Another feature that board members took interest in was the possibility that the meters could be linked to a sensor that would keep track of whether a car was parked in the space or not.

The authority has not yet decided to purchase the sensors, but IPS manufactures a wireless model that can communicate with their meters.

Board Chairman Kevin McTernan seemed excited that the meters would "zero out" when a car pulls away, thus making the authority more money.

But Bier told the board that the most important benefit of the sensors would be the ability for the authority, and potentially the public, to view which spaces are available in real-time.

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Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.