Port Jefferson's village board is looking at new parking meter options and could have the current meters replaced as early as March, in time for the resuming of paid parking after its suspension for winter, according to trustee Larry LaPointe.
The current meters, which have been in place for five years, have been unreliable in processing credit card transactions, said LaPointe, who is spearheading the move for new ones.
"We wanted to get an idea if the technology has improved over the last five years," he said. "The industry standard for credit cards has gotten much better, and we're trying to figure out what enhancements are possible."
LaPointe used the example of an iPhone application that makes transactions easier by communicating wirelessly with an appropriate meter, though he said it's only one technology among several which are being explored.
A committee has been discussing the issue at weekly meetings and will likely present its findings at the board's next meeting on January 23. If the recommendation is that the meters should be replaced and the board approves, the village will open bidding for vendors.
LaPointe said the price for leasing or renting new machines is expected to run about $100,000. He said the village collects a total of $300,000 each year from its meter system.
Local business owners say the prospect could alleviate some of the complaints they frequently hear from their customers, but that the implementation of any paid parking has been the real problem.
"It hinders our customers," said Donny Stanley, a clerk at gift shop on East Main Street. "They complain about it all the time. Even if you want to pop into a store for five minutes you have to pay."
Tara Seta opened her clothing boutique, Trés Jolie, on Main Street eight months ago.
"I've noticed quite a few times that [customers] express they wish they could stay and shop, but they have to run out and pay for the parking," said Seta. She said she has heard many complaints from neighboring store owners about the paid parking and its effect on business.
"As a merchant, I would prefer to be somewhere like Huntington where there is no paid parking, but I can't compare - this is a tourist town," said Seta. She said she believes that in the end, giving more people the chance to park and visit the town is better.
Alice Marchewka owns restaurant on Main Street. She said she hasn't seen any increase in foot traffic since the meters were first installed, but that the move hurt her business tremendously.
"We lost all of our regulars. They left and aren't coming back," she said, adding that she knows of some who have chosen spots to frequent in villages which don't charge for parking.
She welcomed any improvements that might make the system less daunting, especially because the current meters don't accept dollar bills.
"Who walks around with a bunch of quarters in their pocket? And who wants to use a credit card for 25 cents?" she said.