You may not notice the change at first glance but, if you are at one of four different pay-required parking areas on Fort Myers Beach, you will see an additional feature to the meters there.
When feeding the coin meters on Palm Avenue, Strandview Avenue, Newton Park and along all of Old San Carlos Boulevard, do not panic if you do not have enough change in your pants pockets or vehicle. Credit card usage is now available.
As part of a newly implemented pilot program by the Town of Fort Myers Beach, the new meters at the four locations will allow the use of "plastic" money. Call it a technological advance for convenience sake.
"They are going to be in place through April," said Town Public Works Director Cathie Lewis. "We are moving forward with this primarily because of convenience, but also to provide a computer program that will identify whenever there is a problem with a meter so that we can be proactive and repair it right off the bat."
The coin meters can take quarters, dimes and nickels and credit cards, but no receipts will be given. One will have to check their banking statements or online banking system for that access.
A total of 99 new meters have been provided by Innovative Parking Solutions.
The credit card computer program will offer more than convenience. Lewis said that parking meters that are not functioning properly generally take at least 24 hours to be repaired. Before, coin would be unloaded on a two to three day basis and that was the time a problem was detected.
"Sometimes we can have meters that can be inoperable without us knowing where people are either parking for free or have lost coin in it," said Lewis.
Repairs on such coin meters or pay stations are costly as well.
The reason for selecting Old San Carlos Boulevard relates to the high usage there. Palm Street currently has an aging Pay Station that, while still functional, may break soon due the age of the machine.
"Pay stations are expensive to replace, so we felt that we could pilot it at this location to see how well people receive it.
Strandview and Newton Park do not have change machines at those locations. A simple swipe will change that.
"When people utilize those locations, often they can't because they do not have coin or they have to run and get coin at Publix or other places. We want to see if people find it beneficial," said Lewis.
As it does with the regular parking meters, Beach and Street Enforcement will take care of operations with the new multi-purpose meters. The computer program will be monitored at the central parking office.
"Basically, it records every meter every 60 seconds. It knows exactly what is going on when someone uses their credit card by showing the last four digits of the credit card," said Lewis. "We hope people find it much more convenient for them instead of carrying a lot of coin."
There will be no parking rate change with the newly implemented meters, says Lewis.
"There are no changes in our rates. We are not changing any of that aspect of infrastructure," she said.
The Town has offered free parking at all its metered sites during particular holidays. In the past, one would have to read the fine lines on the meters to find out when they didn't have to add coins. Now, technology has improved that situation.
"These meters will also alert people when it is free parking. Sometimes people were not aware and continued to feed the meters when there was free parking. It was difficult to notify them," said Lewis.
According to Town records, there are two types of parking on he Beach: short term and long term.
One can find short-term parking, or metered parking, on Old San Carlos Boulevard, Estero Boulevard, Center Street and Fifth Street. There, metered spaces have a two-hour time limit and cost $2 per hour. Coin change machines are available on Center Street and next to the Shipwreck Store on Old San Carlos Boulevard. Meters are monitored between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. seven days a week.
Long-term parking is available on all beach access streets and in the lot under the Matanzas Pass Bridge. The cost is $2 per hour, and there is no time limit.
Two beach accesses, Palm Avenue and Connecticut Street, offer Pay-and-Display machines, which allows the parker to use a credit card rather than change to pay for parking.
Prohibited parking areas include on any sidewalk, in the wrong direction (against the flow of traffic), in a handicapped space without a valid permit, in a fire lane and in areas officially marked as prohibited.
If you are in doubt as to whether you are parked illegally, contact BASE at 463-5888 before you park and leave your car.