Lots to talk about

First Posted: 8/23/2013

It’s the next generation of parking.

Pittston recently installed self-serve “pay and display” parking kiosks in three of city lots and the parking meters are being removed.

Solar-powered kiosks were installed at the Lower Tomato Festival Lot, the Upper Tomato Festival Lot, the St. John the Baptist Lot and the YMCA lot. All the parking meters will be removed.

The kiosks cost $9,000 each or a total of $36,000, said Michael Lombardo, vice president of the city’s Redevelopment Authority.

Lombardo said they decided to not use the ones that accepted bills because the bill feeders often get jammed and would add to repair costs. On the plus side, city workers can maintain the machines in house and won’t have to pay an outside company for repairs.

The cost of parking at any meter or lot in the city is the same: 50 cents an hour.

“The city is responsible for providing safe parking downtown and that comes at a cost,” Moskovitz said. “The cost of parking in downtown Pittston is far less than parking in any of our surrounding cities.”

Parking kiosks and meters in the downtown are monitored Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but Saturday patrols are often relaxed.

The kiosk concept, used in many cities, is simple. You park your car, walk to the kiosk and buy a ticket with either coins or by swiping your credit/debit card. A ticket is printed and must be placed on the drivers’ side dashboard, usually between the steering wheel and the window.

The ticket will tell you what time it expires, so you can plan your trip accordingly.

Signs will soon be installed and the kiosks will go online in the beginning of September.

“We’re going to be careful and allow people to understand how they work,” said Moskovitz. “We know it’s something new and people will need to learn how they work.”

Another advantage of the kiosks is the money containers are closed and nobody will touch the money until it gets to the treasurer’s office.

Revenue from parking in the city, as it stands now, goes into two separate coffers. Money generated by the parking meters along Main Street goes to the city. Money generated at any of the lots goes to the Parking Authority. Enforcement is under the auspices of the city.

Lombardo, former Pittston mayor and a member of the redevelopment authority, said the goal is not to generate revenue, but keep the downtown active and vibrant.

“This is not about revenue,” he said. “It’s about controlling parking. You don’t want to have one car take up a spot all day.”

The parking authority offers parking permit parking to businesses for a rate of $20 a month. The city has about 100 of these, with more on the way after the Gilbro project on William and Main streets is soon complete.

Moskovitz said about $20,000 a year is generated from parking meters and parking fines.

The money generated goes to stripe painting, lighting, electricity, replacing equipment and other parking-related projects such as a retaining wall behind the fire station over the tomato lot. The authority also has donated $15,000 in the past to help the city purchase a police car.

The five-member Parking Authority is appointed by the mayor and city council and meets about six times a year. The members are Jim Norris, Sal Licata, Jim DeIce, Fred Stuccio and Marty Quinn. The head of the city’s Redevelopment Authority, Joe Chacke, also oversees the Parking Authority.

The bottom line, Moskovitz said, it is a downtown and parking is at a premium. And need for parking is a good problem for the city to have.

“We understand nobody likes to pay to park,” he said. “We have studied it closely and here will be a lot more time spent by the city and the authority in identifying parking strategies. But as more businesses move downtown, there will be a need for more parking. It’s a good problem.”

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