by Pete Mazzaccaro

The Chestnut Hill Parking Authority will install kiosks like this one at each of its parking lots. Pete Mazzaccaro

The Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation sent out letters to Avenue businesses last week inviting them to attend a meeting on Thursday, Nov. 10, to discuss the installation of parking kiosks to the eight lots that have been operated by the parking foundation for more than 50 years.

The change follows a year of a system that Parking Foundation board members say has not worked out according to plan. That system, in which Avenue businesses were asked to pay an annual assessment to fund the foundation’s lot maintenance, was seen as unfair by some merchants, difficult to quantify by others and another 20 to 25 percent of Avenue businesses declined to contribute at all.

The parking foundation also had a difficult time policing the 383 parking spots. It employs five “ambassadors” who patrol the lots, but distinguishing shoppers from Avenue employees and area residents who were parking illegally was difficult.

So by early next year, the parking foundation will install kiosks identical to those used around the city and operated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Those kiosks allow parkers to use coins, cash, credit cards and parking cards to purchase tickets that are then placed on the dashboard of parked cars. The Philadelphia Parking Authority will police the lots.

“I had hopes that the voluntary assessment system would work,” said parking foundation president John Ingersoll. “After about nine months, I had my doubts.”

“We looked at a number of what would be a fair system.” Said former foundation board member Dave Parker. “Going to a kiosk system is fair. It’s people paying for their Parking and allowing the Parking Foundation to maintain the lots the way it should.”

The cost of installing the kiosks at area lots will be covered by funds from a federal grant the foundation received last year. The Parking Foundation sought and received approval to focus those funds at installing kiosks. Parking will cost $1 an hour.

The Parking Authority is patrolling the lots free of charge to the Parking Foundation. The PPA will keep all the money it earns in ticket.

Ingersoll said that the deal with the PPA includes the foundation’s ability to call the agency up within 24 hours to ask them not to patrol for a day in the event the foundation wants to offer free parking. He also said that if enforcement becomes a problem, the foundation can have ask the PPA to stop patrolling the lots.

Parking Foundation board members acknowledged that some businesses might be upset by the change, but said the new system was the only one that seemed both fair and sustainable.

“We looked at many other retail corridors like ours, Phoenixville, Ambler, and we’ve found people are willing to pay to park in a safe lot,” said Marilyn Monaco.

“businesses want to have parking. They need parking,” said Fran O’DOnnell. “If this is done right, it should kep people from parking all day in the lots. It’s efficient. We need to do this.”

The parking foundation said they are currently working on a system to give retailers the option to purchase tokens that can be used in the new kiosks, recalling the old sticker system that that the foundation stopped using several years ago.

The meeting on Thursday Nov. 10 will take place at the Chestnut Hill Library, 8711 Germantown Ave., at 2 p.m.  The kiosk system will be demonstrated and a representative from the Philadelphia Parking Authority will also be there to answer questions.