Providence councilman seeks to lower minimum credit card charge on parking meters

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The latest battle in the war over parking meters in Providence: credit card fees.

City Councilman Sam Zurier will introduce a resolution at Thursday’s council meeting calling for the city to reduce the minimum charge when someone uses their debit or credit card to pay a parking meter from $2.50 to $1.

Zurier, who represents Ward 2 on the East Side, said he’s concerned the $2.50 minimum charge might discourage people from parking in Providence’s commercial districts and visiting stores.

“I think there’s a question in setting this to balance the fiscal needs of the city against the economic consequences of a charge,” Zurier said. “If the charge is reducing business in stores, that might ultimately reduce the values of those stores and reduce the tax revenues the city would receive.”

As part of an overhaul to the city’s parking meter program last year, the Elorza administration converted every meter in Providence to accept both coins and credit cards. Officials said the combination of 700 new meters and the convenience of accepting cards would help the city raise an additional $2 million in revenue during the current fiscal year.

As it stands now, those paying with change can pay 25 cents for every 12 minutes of parking time. Using a credit automatically results in a $2.50 charge.

Zurier said his research has shown that New Haven and Atlanta charge a minimum of $1 to use a credit card at a meter and New York City does not charge at all.

A spokesperson for the city did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

To date, only about 330 of the planned addition of 700 metered spaces are in place. (In all, the city expects to have about 2,100 meters by the end of the year.) The slower-than-expected process of getting all the new spaces in place means the city will likely fall about $600,000 short of the $4.2 million in revenue it projected in its budget.

The city’s plans to add parking meters to Wickenden Street has also been met with fierce backlash from business owners in the Fox Point neighborhood. Earlier this month, officials announced they wouldn’t add meters to Hope Street following a similar outcry from shop owners in that community. (The city maintained its parking studies showed Hope Street did not need meters.)

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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