Automatic parking-fee kiosks launched at Jones Beach

Kaitlyn Raiha, 20, of St. James, purchases a

Kaitlyn Raiha, 20, of St. James, purchases a ticket Sunday afternoon from the metered parking system in front of the Bathhouse at Jones Beach on July 6, 2014 in Wantagh. Photo Credit: James Carbone

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Headed to Jones Beach but short on cash?

Visitors can now use plastic to pay for parking at one of five new automated kiosks installed at the state park last week.

The kiosks at Jones Beach will enable people heading west on Ocean Parkway to pay for parking without having to loop around to the toll plaza, where traffic can back up for miles on a hot summer day. The machines are meant to help dissipate lines for buying one-day parking passes by offering more places to do so.

The new solar-powered kiosks are a pilot project this summer at Jones Beach and three other state-run Long Island parks, said George Gorman, deputy regional director for state parks. At Jones Beach, there is one each at the east and west bathhouses, and three at parking field 10.

"This is the first time in the history of Jones Beach that we're utilizing automation for paid parking services -- we've never had that before," Gorman said. "It's more convenient for people."

Elsewhere on Long Island, Hither Hills State Park in Montauk and Caleb Smith State Park in Smithtown will each get one kiosk; Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River will get three. Those are all set to go live by the end of the month, Gorman said.

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The kiosks cost about $8,500 each and another $1,000 to $1,500 to install and set up. They take credit or debit cards and cash, but exact change must be used as the machines are not equipped to spit out change, Gorman said. Patrons show parking attendants the receipt and place it on their dashboards.

On Sunday afternoon at Jones Beach, short lines formed as people began using the machines at the east and west bathhouses and it took some a few minutes to learn to work them.

Kim Jordan of Greensboro, North Carolina, huddled around the kiosk for a few moments, trying to determine where to put her cash.

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"Once I figured out how to operate it, it was pretty cool," Jordan said.

Patricia Ford, 55, of Levittown found it intuitive. She jumped out of the passenger seat of a convertible, paid for her ticket, and returned in under a minute. "It's fast, it's easy," she said.

Thursday marked the launch for the Jones Beach stations and Jones Beach State Park director Susan Guliani said it was a success, aside from minor technical glitches that were resolved. She was unable to say how many people used them during the holiday weekend because debit and credit receipts are sent straight to Albany. Gorman and Guliani said the booths won't replace park attendants or result in staffing cuts.

The first kiosks in the state were integrated in upstate Saratoga Spa and Niagara Falls state parks last year, Gorman said.

The Jones Beach kiosks can be powered down during off-hours when people aren't required to pay for parking, and they will be covered or removed in bad weather to protect them from the threat of nearby sand and saltwater.

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