GLOUCESTER — Cars streamed in and out of the municipal lot in front of the Gloucester House Wednesday afternoon, leaving at most about seven spots open at a time.
A driver pulling in braked, then twisted her head around and tipped down her sunglasses to check out a newly-installed multi-spot, grey block of a meter, stamped with a blue square and a “P” for parking.
Gloucester debuted 11 kiosks, each six feet tall and solar-powered Wednesday morning. The kiosks will provide places for motorists to pay for parking on Rogers Street, in front of City Hall on Warren Street, in the city parking lot in front of the Gloucester House, and in the I-4, C-2 and Babson parking lots.
Gloucester resident Mark Andrew, standing at a kiosk in front of the Gloucester House, dropped in a quarter and leaned in to search for further instructions.
“This is a step in probably the right direction,” Andrew said. “I gotta walk back to my car, though.”
It turns out, the next step, when paying with change, is to hit a green button, wait for a receipt to print, then set it inside of the vehicle on the dash to notify parking enforcement that you have paid.
Andrew said he feels he has done his part in paying for the parking spot, but he does lament that if he returns to his car before finishing his paid time, the sticker value cannot be handed onto the next person parking in his spot.
“I usually leave a little bit on the meter for the next guy, but that’s gone now,” Andrew said.
Still, Andrew said he thought the prices, at 50 cents per hour, were reasonable and expected. Others agreed, including a woman visiting from Marblehead who climbed out of her vehicle, parked at the I-4, C-2 lot, balancing a straw hat on her head and lugging a backpack brimming with sketch pads and pencils.
“I think it’s fair that they collect for parking,” Alex Metzgei said. “Gloucester should collect money from tourists.”
Fabio Guerra, along with his wife, Michela and 3-year-old son Edordo, were visiting Gloucester on a trip from Italy and parked at the lot in front of The Gloucester House Wednesday. Edordo giggled, mimicking the spouting whales the family had seen from a whale watch boat just an hour earlier, whole his father pointed out the affordability of parking compared to European prices, and said he liked using the kiosk.
“It was easy to use, convenient and comparable to Euro kiosks,” Geurra said.
Gloucester meter enforcement officer Deb Callahan said the town is giving people a chance to get used to the meters before cracking down and ticketing on the kiosked areas.
“We’re kind of getting people to know it, having a soft opening,” Callahan said Wednesday.
The kiosk in the I-4, C-2 lot is taped over with a sign that says people will be charged to park in the lot beginning Wednesday, Aug. 15.
The lot, which is newly dark brown after the town painted over it with liquid calcium and calcium flakes to keep down the dust on Tuesday, will be converted to paid parking once the City Council passes a town ordinance to cover the change, according to Callahan; the council meets Tuesday night.
Though many Gloucester drivers were content to pay for the parking — free in the lots and on parts of Rogers Street since the old meters were taken out in May — some patrons were considerably less thrilled with the functionality of the new kiosk system.
Many noted a lack of signage, a problem the city plans to address with displays before cracking down on ticketing Monday, according to Callahan.
But other patrons were still frustrated with what they called a confusing credit card mode. The machines will only accept debit or credit cards if the user pays the maximum amount of parking time — 10 hours for $5, according to Callahan — since the town is charged for credit and debit card fees for each card usage.
Marilyn Ott, visiting Gloucester from Venice, Fla., with her grandsons and parking in front of the Gloucester House for a restaurant lunch, tried using her credit card a few times, but was unable to complete the process.
“Well, we’re getting hungrier and hungrier, aren’t we?” Ott said, looking toward her grandsons Luc and Timon Hallisey. Luc, 9, and Timon, 6, are visiting from Easthampton.
After a few minutes and two tries at using her credit card, Ott dug out a dollar bill, inserted it in the machine and printed a receipt to set on her vehicle’s dash.
Ott’s advice: “Pay cash.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.