Currently in cover story hell. Here’s the release.

This new parking system is both more convenient and economical because parking patrons are able to refund unused time from their meters.

To take full advantage of the new parking system, patrons can purchase a SmartCard from the Department of Revenue Collections, 180 Lockwood Drive. This card costs a one-time fee of $5.00 and buyers may choose from a selection of four cards, each bearing a photograph of a different Charleston landmark. Money can be uploaded onto the card in increments of $1.00 using cash, Visa, MasterCard, or debit cards. Each card holds up to $300 in value and patrons can purchase additional time as they need at 180 Lockwood Drive.

At this time, slightly more than 50% of Charleston’s parking meters can accommodate the SmartCards. Updated meters still accept coins in addition to the new slot where the SmartCard can be inserted. When a SmartCard is inserted, the meter will first display the dollar value available on the card. The display will then begin to show time being added to the meter in 20 minute increments. Time will continue to add to the meter until the maximum allotted time for the meter is reached, or until the card is removed.  When ready to leave a metered space, any remaining time may be refunded to the SmartCard simply by reinserting the card into the meter. Each card has a unique electronic identity allowing time to only be refunded onto the specific SmartCard from which it was originally taken.

As a special promotion, the City of Charleston will give the first 100 cards to purchasers free of charge ($5.00 purchase after the first 100 have been given out!). Sales of the cards and meter time will begin on Friday, January 16 at 180 Lockwood.

Hernan Pena, Director of the Department of Traffic and Transportation, said, “Providing the card enables parkers to use the short term parking available at meters. We will be expanding both the meters and facilities for purchase of the card and time to other locations by 2010.  The card is convenient and we are confident that card users will be pleased.”