Current parking attendants to retain jobs, but duties will shift

On its screen, the gray and black — with a green vertical pinstripe — HUB Parking Technology Datapark calls itself Market Street Pay Station 6. Still wrapped in plastic, it stands silently in the Downtown Mall pedestrian entrance of the Market Street Parking Garage. At 8 a.m. June 17, Pay Station 6 and its brethren at the vehicular exit will be ready to accept payment. A week later, other Dataparks will come online in the Water Street garage.

The new payment machines represent upgrades from the current equipment, said Rick Siebert, parking manager for the city of Charlottesville. The original manufacturer of the current machines has gone out of business, and spare parts are hard to find.

“The equipment that’s in the garage is well past its service life,” he said. “We really have great difficulty keeping it operating.”

Earlier in the spring, the machines were unable to process credit card transactions, which led to congestion at the exit.

“That’s symptomatic of some of the issues we’ve been having,” Siebert said.

The new system, which costs $175,000 for each garage, aims to get people out of the garages more efficiently, he said.

“You pull a ticket when you come in. … When you’re ready to leave, you go to a pay station and you scan your ticket at the pay station and it tells you how much money you owe,” Siebert said.

Once receiving payment through bills no larger than $20 or a credit or debit card, the Dataparks give garage patrons tickets they will scan at the gate as proof of payment to drive out of the garage. Anyone who misses the lone outside station will have the ability to pay at the gate, Siebert said.

Once the system is operational, the structure of the parking rates will change. Currently, for both garages, the first hour is free and then $2 is charged per hour for any portion of the following hours. The new rate structure will retain the free first hour but then will charge $1 every 30 minutes thereafter.

“This, I think, will be a little fairer to people who run 10 minutes over,” Siebert said.

The pay station for the Water Street garage likely will be at the stairwell at the corner of Second Street Southeast and East Water Street. It will operate in the same way as the one at the Market Street garage.

 “We encourage people to use the walk-up pay station,” he said.

The new system also will lead to a change in parking validation. Rubber-stamp validation in the Water Street garage, a relic of before it joined the Market Street garage in being under the management of Lanier Parking, ends on June 24. The current validation cards with magnetic strips no longer will work in the Market Street garage on June 17. The Datapark validations require cards with a printed barcode.

“You will be able to use the new validation tickets in both garages,” Siebert said.

“Monthly parkers will stay the same,” he added. “They will keep their hang tags, and they will work the same way.”

The current parking attendants will have their roles revised to ambassadors.

“[They] will not be furloughed. They will not be let go,” Siebert said.

In their new roles, the ambassadors will be in the garages and available to give directions to points of interest downtown and help people with the new system. This help will be augmented by new signs both inside and outside of the garages, Siebert said.

For more information, visit charlottesville.org/visitors/parking-information. Businesses wishing to continue validation should call Lanier at (434) 284-5620.