Pismo Beach tests using bills to pay for parking in addition to credit cards and coins

Pismo Beach officials are testing out a parking kiosk that accepts paper currency — one of the main complaints visitors have about the current pay machines, which accept only coins and credit cards.

The feature is also aimed at encouraging residents to use bills instead of credit cards to reduce bank transaction fees paid by the city.

The test kiosk, which is in the pier parking lot, could replace the dozen parking machines in Pismo Beach’s downtown, depending on recommendations made by a parking advisory committee at the end of a 90-day test period, according to Community Development Director Randy Bloom.

The final decision will also depend on whether the city can exchange the existing machines from the vendor. Results of the test kiosk will be used to determine whether it’s economically feasible to swap machines. Bloom did not know whether the city could exchange the dozen machines for ones that accept bills at no cost.

Some of the complaints the city received were that the kiosks didn’t handle credit card transactions fast enough.“People are used to swiping (a credit card) really fast. That’s one of the complaints we’re trying to address,” Bloom said.

The first 30 days of the test period showed that customers were using coins and bills more than credit cards, according to Bloom.

The city compared data from a current kiosk during a 20-day period in 2008 and from the same period in 2009 with the test machine. Data from the city showed customers spent $1,910 in cash in 2008 and $3,701 in 2009. Results showed a decline in credit card use with the test kiosk.

Pismo Beach has collected about $86,000 in the first two months of the fiscal year, according to data from the city.City staff is also working on changing how residents can contest a parking citation to avoid going to court.

Currently, residents can pay for the hours they were cited for on the same day to void the citation. Or they can later fill out a form to contest the citation, for review by a city employee.

City staff is considering an option that would grant a customer an independent review by a non-staff member if a citation is not dismissed, according to Bloom. The reviewer making the decision would act as a judge.