If you pull up to a parking meter on Mill Avenue and reach into your pocket to discover you don't have any coins, don't worry.

Like so many other things today, you can just put it on plastic.

All 79 meters on Mill Avenue now let downtown visitors pay with credit cards in addition to taking coins. The meters are solar powered and are being tested by the Downtown Tempe Association, which manages most downtown parking.

"The main factor is customer service," said Adam Jones, DTC's vice president of parking and operations. "We don't want any people to have to worry about finding the correct change in their pockets when they visit downtown."

DTC is testing the meters for 90 days to determine if it wants to purchase them and eventually install them on the 540 metered spaces it manages. The devices cost $500 each and fit on top of the existing meters.

After the trial period, DTC will compare revenue with the same period of last year to see if they bring in more money. Jones said meters that take credit cards in other cities have attracted more customers.

"Industry standards say you'll be able to see a 15 percent increase," Jones said.

In just the first week, 26 percent of revenue from those meters came through credit cards. If the new meters stay, DTC will add a smart phone application that will alert customers when their meter is about to expire. They'll have the option to add time, with a maximum of three hours. The current maximum time is one hour and 20 minutes, at a cost of $2. DTC isn't sure how long it will take to retrofit all its meters, which Jones said will be funded partially through additional revenue that the meters will be expected to generate.

The solar-powered meters should be easier to maintain because coins won't have to be collected as often and nobody will need to change batteries that power the old devices.

If DTC adds more solar-powered meters, it will consider multi-space versions for some areas. DTC used those about a decade ago but switched to single-space meters after running into problems and customer complaints. Newer designs don't share those problems, he said.

"The technology has improved many, many times over since that type of meter was used," Jones said.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6548 or ggroff@evtrib.com

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