ITHACA, N.Y. — This week, Ithaca is installing 21 electronic pay stations on 21 different blocks, replacing the coin-operated meters that have long lined the city’s streets.

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The electronic parking stations were used 65 times on Monday, 201 times on Tuesday, 354 times on Wednesday and 727 times on Thursday, according to Frank Nagy, director of parking for the city.

“I’m very excited,” says Nagy. “People want to use this machine.”

As of Friday, nine of the coin-operated “lollipop” meters remained, Nagy said. An additional two pay stations will eventually be installed on either end of the Ithaca Commons once construction is complete, Nagy said.

City touts benefits of new stations

Here are three interesting things I learned from Nagy on Friday morning about the pay stations:

1 — Extend time remotely

Imagine you’re in a restaurant off the Ithaca Commons and service is unexpectedly slow.

Previously, you’d have to rush to finish your meal to get back to your car before the meter expired. Now, however, visitors will be able to simply send text messages to extend the amount of time they’ve paid on their meters.

Not only can motorists extend their time by paying via credit card, but they’ll get a text 15 minutes before their session ends alerting them that their time is running out, according to Nagy.

2 — City: Machines will pay for themselves

Including the cost of installing them, the new digital parking stations will each cost around $10,000 per machine, according to Nagy.

Nagy expressed confidence that this $230,000 cost, however, would soon be recovered through additional parking meter revenue.

“In reality, they’ll probably pay themselves off within the first 18 months,” Nagy said.

3 — Carry payment with you

Previously, Nagy said, if you moved between metered slots in downtown Ithaca you’d have to refill a different meter.

That will no longer be the case under the new system, he said. Nagy explained that by entering your license plate, you’ll be able to carry the time you paid for at the old location to wherever you take your car next.

“You just take your car and move it: Your time goes with you,” he said.

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.