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WEST CHESTER — Starting today, parking garages in the borough will have automated gates working 24 hours of a day, seven days of the week.
“We’re going to an automated system, which means instead of patrons paying a cashier, they will be paying a machine,” said Pam Grossman, director of parking for the borough. “That helps us in terms of being able to close the gates 24 hours a day. From my standpoint, it makes it easy for us to audit the garages.”
After a 7-0 vote of council on July 15, it was decided to make the gates work at all times to prevent people from taking advantage of free parking all day on Sundays.
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“The problem with the borough garages is that people can go in, take a ticket Tuesday, drive out Sunday and you have a lot of free time off,” Councilman Bill Scott said after the meeting. “Therefore, I’m on the Parking Committee and it was my idea to continue the free parking (in lots), but charge in the garages. I wasn’t (in favor) if there were that many people that used the garages.”
Scott’s original idea was amended from charging all hours in the garage to just keeping the automated gates down at all times after a huge turnout brought negative comments from the community.
Instead of paying when pulling out of the garage, parkers will now pay at machines on the bottom floor. The machine will take cash or debit and credit cards.
Now, people parking in the garages will have to remember to bring their ticket with them. There will be signs as reminders.
Those who forget their ticket can pull up to the gate and a machine there will also accept payment – but only by a credit or debit card.
“We’re even trying to get the elevator to say ‘Don’t forget your ticket,’” Grossman said.
The borough is also working on another method for people who may forget their ticket or forget to pay ahead of time.
“We’re going to build in three five-minute parking spaces so if somebody gets to that point and didn’t pay, then can pull in and pay the machine,” Grossman said. “It happens.”
Though people will be dealing with machines, there will still be employees on hand to help, if needed.
“There is always going to be staff on site to help somebody if, for some reason, they’re having a problem paying the machine or they’re having a problem with their ticket,” Grossman said. “If there’s not someone there visibly, there is a button that people can push on the machine or exit gate that will be hooked up to a phone to call someone.”
Previously, the gates would be up Sunday for free parking, but that will no longer be the case.
However, Sunday parking will still be free from 7 a.m. to 11:59 p.m.
“People can go right to the exit (on Sundays) and stick the ticket in,” Grossman said. “They can go to the machine if they want to, but it’s not necessary, as long as you come in and out during that free period.”
Businesses can also still validate parking, but now in a new way.
“Instead of stamping the tickets, they are given a chaser ticket,” Grossman said. “What happens with the ticket is when you’re going to exit, you stick in the ticket you got when you came in first and then stick the chaser ticket in the machine.”
Though this is going to be a big change for the borough, it’s something officials feel will make things easier all around.
“This really just helps us manage the garages more efficiently,” Grossman said. “We make sure people who are parking are legitimately paying for the time their use in the garage.”