Chris Coffey

Big Changes Hit Chicago's Parking Meters

Big changes came to Chicago's parking meter system Thursday.

Crews began installing new pay boxes across the city that spell the end of the dashboard receipts drivers have been displaying for years.

Chicago Parking Meters, which collects fees from 36,000 spots in Chicago, has begun to move to a "pay by plate" system with a goal of having all 4,500 pay boxes in the city updated by the middle of 2019.

Roughly 15 of the new meters were installed on Stetson between Randolph and Lake streets in Chicago's Loop Thursday.

The new pay boxes are equipped with a touch screen resembling a tablet to complete transactions, in which drivers can type in their license plate number and insert a credit card or coins to pay.

While the pay boxes will look similar to the old ones, and are still solar-powered as well, the main difference will be that since drivers are paying by plate number, they will no longer need to display the receipt on the dashboard.

Customers will still have the option of printing a receipt, or receiving it via text message. Customers who use the ParkChicago app can continue to pay in that manner, with no disruption to service.

Parking enforcement personnel will be able to access a database that shows if a parking session has been activated for each parked vehicle.

According to the company, the new technology represents a major upgrade to the city’s parking infrastructure and follows an industry trend as more municipalities switch from pay-and-display to pay-by-plate.

Chicago Parking Meters CEO Dennis Pedrelli said the existing meters are almost ten years old and are nearing the end of their useful life.

"We put in some test pay boxes last week and now we’re going full force with installing the pay boxes," Pedrelli said Thursday. "Now you just put in your license plate number and you can have your receipt texted to you."

As paying by plate may come with a slight learning curve, Chicago Parking Meters will have employees wearing kelly green vests out and about in the Loop to answer questions and help smooth the transition.

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