Magazine article American Banker

Smart Cards: Parking Meter Tests Raise Hopes for Smart Cards

Magazine article American Banker

Smart Cards: Parking Meter Tests Raise Hopes for Smart Cards

Article excerpt

The growing interest in smart cards for transportation purposes is spreading into parking.

Positive results from a parking meter test in Boston and imminent initiatives in major cities such as New York and Washington are raising hopes for mass acceptance of at least a single-purpose type of card with value stored in its computer chip.

These efforts are piquing the interest of other municipalities and universities. Some of them have already put smart cards to work in ways that indicate how banking and payment services might spread in the general marketplace as the technology evolves outside those areas.

Smart cards are "one of the hottest topics in the parking industry right now," said Duke Hanson, vice president of marketing and business development at Lockheed Martin and chairman of the International Parking Institute's electronic payment systems committee.

Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed is managing 15,000 parking meters it installed recently in Washington. All are equipped with smart card slotswhich for now are sealed shut.

The city has asked Lockheed to implement a smart card trial this year using about 1,500 of the meters. Lockheed is reviewing vendors and looking for partners to put multiple applications on the cards, taking advantage of the chip capacity that many observers say will be the key to deriving longterm profits.

New York City's parking bureau has also begun converting its 66,000 mechanical meters to electronic devices with smart card slots. So far about 25,000 meters have been supplied by Duncan Industries of Harrison, Ark., and J.J. MacKay Canada Ltd. in Nova Scotia.

Where practical for multiple parking spaces, New York City also uses smart-card-ready payment stations made by Schlumberger Smart Cards and Terminals, a global chip card and terminal supplier whose U.S. base is in San Jose, Calif. The New York rollout of smart card parking is expected to be announced later this year.

The city has thousands of Gemplus and Schlumberger smart cards in storage. Officials said they are taking their time to be sure that the marketing plan is ready and complete.

"We want to make this a seamless transition," one New York parking official said. "Since smart card pilots in the city didn't track very well, we need to make sure we have all of our i's dotted and t's crossed before we put it out there."

Dave P. Witts, marketing manager for municipality solutions at Schlumberger, said he has offered to help New York City with its distribution plans. Figuring out how and where to sell the cards has proven to be the most challenging aspect, a city official said.

In Schlumberger's other citywide smart card parking program, in Aspen, Colo., cards can be purchased at the town hall or by mail. Aspen's twoyear-old program was the first application of multispace smart card parking in the United States.

Schlumberger has developed parking devices that accept all payment types. Its multispace stations are gaining popularity on campuses and in some cities, and have made major inroads in Europe.

At the University of California at Berkeley, students may buy a $50 card to use at multispace machines. The university gets the money up front and, in many cases, offers the purchasers discounts. …

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