After several minutes, the parking payment kiosk in Bridgeville’s public parking lot #2 still wasn’t cooperating for Marjorie Jablonski.
The Bridgeville resident kept trying to enter her license plate number, but the letters she tapped on the keyboard weren’t the letters popping up onscreen.
“I’m only parking for a few minutes,” she explained, “but I don’t want to take a chance of getting a ticket.”
The parking payment kiosks around town have been a point of contention since the Bridgeville Parking Authority installed them last fall. The machines bring the convenience of credit card payments—no more searching for loose change to park—but they’ve also been frustrating to some people due to design and access issues.
Several changes are in the works to address some of these complaints, says Parking Authority chairman Mike Connolly:
- A smartphone app will be released this month that allows visitors to pay for parking without having to interact with a kiosk.
- Parking will now be free for motorists using handicapped spaces in lot #2 (the one near Burg’s Pizza and Wing).
- The parking kiosk vendor is updating the machine’s software, which should improve the user experience, according to the Mike Connolly of the Bridgeville Parking Authority.
The kiosks’ interface has been a major point of contention during the past few months. In theory, the touchscreen keyboard functions just like a cell phone or iPad. Except, the parking kiosks’ LCD screens are set further back from the glass than the screens of most cell phones. And the screens are below eye level for most adults. From your viewpoint, it might look like you tapped one letter, but if you lower your head to eye level, you’ll see that you’ve actually tapped another.
This is what happened as Marjorie Jablonski tried in vain to enter her information. Eventually, a passerby looked at the machine and suggested that she crouch down to get near eye-level with the payment kiosk. This worked, and she was on her way.
Some business owners and borough officials worry that other potential customers may not be as patient, especially when they can park for free at businesses in South Fayette or Collier.
“The problem isn’t the price of parking,” said Mayor Pat DeBlasio, who wants the Parking Authority to introduce free two-hour parking in Bridgeville’s public lots. “It’s the trouble of standing in the rain and figuring out how to push the buttons or how to get the app or otherwise deal with this.”
Connolly is concerned that allowing free two-hour parking would hinder the Parking Authority’s ability to maintain the borough’s lots.
“I’m resisting that right now,” he said, “because we’ve got a lot of expenses in our future.”
Bridgeville’s parking lots see up to 6,000 visitors per month, and the authority spends up to $10,000 to $12,000 monthly in maintenance, Connolly said. The authority recently installed security cameras in its lots and plans to repave lot #2 next year.
“We’re very frugal in what we do with our money,” he told Bridgeville Borough Council last month.
At the same meeting, councilman Neil Lyons expressed some frustration that the Parking Authority had not provided council with a report on the financial feasibility of free parking.
“We’ve had a ton of people, including a lot of business in the borough, ask for free two-hour parking,” he said. “You guys have the numbers and know what you’re spending and what it would take to police that type of a scenario, and thats… what we were thinking we’d have at this meeting.”