Visitors to downtown Wichita will no longer be able to pay for parking with a credit card, at least not for now.
The city has turned off the electronic pay stations near Century II and the downtown library. Instead, visitors will be expected to pay with coins at the individual parking meters between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily.
The pay stations were installed in April as part of a three-month test project. The city received complaints of long lines at the pay stations before performances at Century II, which prompted city officials to end the project two weeks early on June 26.
“Two extra weeks wouldn’t give us any more data, and we thought it was better to end it early than to inconvenience people. The intent is to enhance the customer’s experience, not to make it more difficult for someone to park and pay,” said John D’Angelo, director of arts and cultural services for the city of Wichita.
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Kelly O'Brien, a sergeant in the Wichita Police Department, said it was also more difficult for police to enforce parking restrictions when the electronic pay stations were in use because officers had to print a report from the pay stations to determine if someone had paid.
The three-month test project cost the city $15,315. D’Angelo said the city paid an outside company, The Car Park, to install and maintain the pay stations. The city did not buy the electronic pay stations, said John Philbrick, real estate administrator for the city.
D’Angelo said it will take 30 to 90 days for him to evaluate the project and make a recommendation to the city manager and ultimately to the Wichita City Council about whether the pay stations should become a permanent fixture downtown.
He plans to look into costs and other possible options, including a pay station located inside the Century II Expo Center.
One factor D’Angelo said he’ll consider is whether the electronic pay stations had a higher rate of return than individual meters.
“If we’re going to leave them there, we’re going to have to make some tweaks,” Philbrick said.
O'Brien said other cities have used similar systems with success, but Wichita residents and officials need to decide if the additional cost is worth the convenience of electronic payment.