Solving Those Charleston Parking Meter Blues The SmartCard Way

By Minta Pavliscsak

With around 1,800 parking meters in downtown Charleston one might think that finding an available one wouldn’t be that difficult. The trick is not so much in finding a meter, yet the trickiness comes in finding the right meter. The right meter being one that is closest to wherever you are going, and vacant at the exact time you need it.

You have made it downtown Charleston with only moments to spare before you have to get to where you need to be. The streets are lined with cars and you begin to feel that pressure of being late, again, because of parking. You circle around for at least 10 minutes before the miracle of an empty spot appears, and lucky for you it is right in front of where you’re going. You check everywhere you keep your meter money, but it’s running low and all you come up with are three dimes and a nickel. With a sigh, you get out of your car, throw the money in the meter, and as you are walking down the sidewalk you say a little prayer to the parking gods asking them to keep the meter maid away from your spot for just a little while longer.
We can’t promise primo parking, but we can solve the dreaded meter money issue with the City of Charleston SmartCard!

What is a SmartCard?
A SmartCard replaces the need of meter money. It is the size of a credit card and adorned with one of Charleston’s beautiful iconic symbols. It can be used at any of the parking meters in downtown Charleston. It works essentially like a gift card. After you pay the onetime fee of $5 for the SmartCard, you can load money onto the card. Once parked at a meter, you insert the card into the meter and be on your way. The meter deducts money from the card in exchange for time.

What makes the SmartCard so awesome?
It’s super convenient! Now I only have to keep a single card in my car. I no longer think of a quarter as being worth 20 minutes of downtown parking. It’s now worth .25 cents just like it should be.
It’s economical. You can actually get back unused time with your SmartCard. You know that feeling you get when you are ready to go but there is still 45 minutes left on your meter? You don’t have to worry about overfeeding the meter anymore. Just insert the card again and it refunds the remaining time right back onto your card.
It makes an awesome gift. We all have that person who’s difficult to buy for. Hook him or her up with some parking time! Trust me, they will be grateful.
It never expires. There is no time frame within which you need to use the money you have loaded onto the SmartCard. You can load up to $300 to your card.

How do I use a SmartCard?20151030_092135 (1)
It’s easy! Just insert the card into the diagonal slot the diagonal just to the left of where those pesky coins go. After a few seconds it will begin adding time to your meter in 20 minute increments, up to the maximum allotted time. When you return to the meter, if you have any time left simply reinsert the card and that money will be put back onto your card. The cards are made so that the meter only accepts yours while it is running. This prevents anyone else from stealing time, and money off of your meter. These cards are specific to Charleston and cannot be used anywhere else.

Where can I purchase a SmartCard?
Cards can be purchased for $5 at the Charleston Visitor Center Gift Shop on Meeting Street, or at the City of Charleston Department of Revenue Collections – Parking Division on Lockwood Drive. When you need to add more money to your card, you have to do so at one of these two places as well.

No more hoarding quarters and other ever coveted meter money. No more running to your car because you were short on change and you know the meter is about to expire. No more parking tickets!*

*You still have to adhere to the time limit of the meter you are parked at. Charleston Daily is not responsible for any parking tickets you may receive. Sorry folks.