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New parking meters need your plate number

One of the new parking meters in downtown Main Street, Lake Placid, is seen by the municipal parking lot. (Enterprise photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — The village has installed new parking meters along Main Street that offer more payment options and require drivers to enter their license plate numbers.

The new meters, which were installed in January, offer drivers the option of using a cellphone app to pay for parking and have digital screens that are easier to read.

Emily Brown, general manager of the Base Camp Cafe and Camp Cocktail, said she hasn’t heard any response from customers yet, though in the past customers spoke about parking meters mostly just to ask why they weren’t working.

Tim Robinson, general manager of Terry Robards Wine & Spirits and president of the Lake Placid Business Association, also said he hasn’t heard much response from business owners yet.

A plan to replace the old meters was spurred by the aging technology. Before they were replaced, the meters required frequent maintenance — which was more difficult to do as companies stopped servicing the old technology — and some meters were no longer functional. Mayor Craig Randall estimated late last year that the meters were around a decade old, and said the village had received complaints that the screens were sometimes difficult to read.

The village removed more than 30 old parking meters in January, and a company was contracted to install the new meters along Main Street. The new meters were expected to cost the village around $250,000, including installation, with the money coming from a parking reserve fund the village established with revenue from the meters a few years ago.

The village tried out the new “Parkeon” meters in the large municipal lot across from the post office before deciding on the model.

Drivers can still use credit cards or quarters to pay for parking, but the old system of leaving tickets on the dashboard has been replaced with a requirement that drivers enter vehicle information — specifically a license plate number — at the meter. People, however, can still print out a receipt.

The parking fees haven’t changed. For on-street parking or in the smaller village lots along Main Street from Saranac Avenue to the big municipal lot across from the post office, it’s the most costly with a fee of $2 per hour or $4 for two hours. It’s $0.50 per hour or $1 for two hours in the big municipal lot, farther down Main Street past the Olympic Center and outside the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery.

The new meters also offer drivers the option to pay for parking through a cellphone app called Flowbird, though using the app adds an additional $0.35 on top of the village’s parking fee.

Flowbird claims on its website to operate “in over 5,000 cities and 70 countries.” Lake Placid appears to be the only North Country municipality currently using the system. The next closest area appears to be in the vicinity of SUNY Albany.

After drivers download the Flowbird app — it’s available in the app store anytime, or users can scan a bar code on the physical machine with their cellphones to automatically find it — the app asks users to first sign up with an email or by linking a Facebook account. Users have to enter information about their vehicle, such as their license plate number and state of registration.

Then the app will ask to access the user’s location. If the driver opts out of that feature, they’ll be asked to enter their location manually with either a street address or with a number on the parking meter closest to their vehicle. Depending on where a driver parks, fees and the number of time slot options vary.

When drivers select their location, they’ll be asked to enter their payment information.

The app has the ability to send users push notifications when their time has expired, and drivers can extend their time directly through the app.