Don’t be surprised if you don’t see the usual wooden parking gates the next time you go to the Prince George Parking Garage on North Henry Street.
As part of a larger overhaul of the city’s parking system, the downtown parking garage has been outfitted with three license plate readers, which scan and record each car’s license plate number as it enters and exits the garage.
The scanners were purchased from NuPark, a Texas-based parking management service. City spokeswoman Lee Ann Hartmann said the revamp was needed because the aging equipment previously in place at the garage was no longer supported by the manufacturer.
Unlike the numbered parking lots scattered throughout downtown Williamsburg that are owned by Colonial Williamsburg, the three-level Prince George Parking Garage is owned and operated by the city.
“It needed an update and we wanted to use something that was used in other areas. We wanted something that was safe and would be more simple and user-friendly to give people a better parking experience,” she said.
Parking enforcement vehicles in the Williamsburg Police Department fleet were outfitted with similar license plate readers, which allow officers to instantly track how long cars have been parked in the same spot across the city. All parking citations will now be done through the NuPark system.
The full system rolls out Wednesday, Hartmann said, but the license plate scanners are already in place at the Prince George Garage. Once the system goes online, parking garage users can create a NuPark account through the city’s website, where they can avoid using pay stations by registering their vehicles and linking their account to a credit or debit card.
“Once your account is established and you authorize payment through a credit or debit card, every time you visit -- simply pull in, park, visit and leave,” she wrote in an email. “Using license plate reader technology, your parking will be recorded and your credit or debit card will automatically be debited.”
Two pay stations on the garage’s first floor were also removed and replaced with two new stations where users enter their license plate number after parking and pay with a debit or credit card before leaving. Cash is not accepted at the new pay stations.
“We realize that folks might not be particularly happy by not accepting cash, but from a safety and security standpoint it’s much easier to not have cash changing hands and in the machines,” Hartmann said.
The two new pay stations each cost the city $12,000, city director of information technology Mark Barham said. The NuPark software will cost the city $30,000 per year, and a 55-inch touch screen display being installed in the garage cost the city another $11,000.
The info board will soon be added to a wall on the first floor of the garage near the pay stations and parking attendants’ office. The screen will display instructions on how to use the new pay stations and outline nearby amenities users can filter by category, such as restaurants, banks, stores and more, Barham said.
One thing that won’t change at the garage is the rate schedule. The first half hour is still free, and drivers will be charged $1 for each additional hour after that. Monthly and semester permits will be available for College of William and Mary students and downtown workers.
For more information about the Prince George Parking Garage, visit williamsburgva.gov/residents/facilities/prince-george-parking-garage. To create a NuPark account, visit parkwilliamsburg.nupark.com/portal.
Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.