Friday, July 19, 2024

The gates have come down: Prince George Parking garage changes to gateless, license plate-based system

Parking Garage Superintendent Vanessa Nash takes down one of the garage gates. The City of Williamsburg is switching to a gateless, license plate-based system at the parking garage. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
Parking Garage Superintendent Vanessa Nash takes down one of the garage gates. The City of Williamsburg is switching to a gateless, license plate-based system at the parking garage. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

Coming to the Prince George Parking Garage: A new way to park your car.

The plan: no gates, no tickets, no cash — less hassle.

City of Williamsburg staff worked Thursday morning to install two new payment machines, which together take up about half the space of the old cash-accepting payment station.

Staff also removed the gates from the garage’s three entry and exit lanes.

The changes to the garage equipment come as part of the Downtown Parking Study implementation plan. The previous parking garage system was outdated and in need of an update, city spokeswoman Lee Ann Hartmann said.

“We wanted to go with the security being used in other areas,” Hartmann said. “This one passed the test.”

There will also be a parking space counter in front of the garage to show the number of open parking spots Hartmann said. Near the garage office and payment station, there will also be a 55-inch touch screen featuring a downtown map and lists of services and shops.

The new changes — including a NuPark software system that allows vehicles to create an account to pay for parking and residential parking permits online — will roll out Jan. 30.

City Information Technology Director Mark Barham said the new pay stations cost about $12,000 each, the NuPark software is $30,000 per year, and the touch screen cost $11,000.

So, how does the new parking system work?

Garage visitors will drive in to the garage and park their vehicle, making sure to take note of their license plate number. On their way out of the garage, they will enter their license plate number and insert their credit or debit card into the pay station to check in. The new stations do not accept cash.

On their way back to their vehicle, garage users will visit the pay station, enter their license plate number and credit or debit card again, and pay for the hours they were parked.

The garage fees have not changed from the first 30 minutes free, and $1 per hour thereafter.

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For Parking Garage Superintendent Vanessa Nash, the new system means no broken gates. She said the gates have been broken occasionally because people drive through them — mostly on accident.

The new system will also help parking ambassadors on the enforcement side. If a vehicle leaves without paying, the license plate reader will capture the plate and mail a paper bill to the vehicle’s owner, Hartmann said.

Parking citations can also now be paid online on the garage software’s Jan. 30 roll-out date.

The parking enforcement Jeep also now has a plate reader that operates like “electronic chalk” to keep track of how long vehicles are parked, Nash said.

Hartmann said eliminating cash payments improves security at the garage.

With no cash on the premises, parking garage employees and visitors will enjoy a safer environment and the cost to the City is less since we do not have to use secure means of transporting cash (Brinks) from the premises,” Hartmann wrote in an email.

The new ability to create an online parking account also allows visitors to avoid having to check in at the pay station.

“Simply pull in, park, visit and leave,” Hartmann said.

Have questions about the parking garage? The Prince George Parking Garage is staffed in the office by the pay stations when the garage is open.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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