New York City is extending by three weeks its deadline to request qualifications from bidders interested in leasing the country's largest parking system - with 80,800 parking spaces - after the companies requested additional information, a spokeswoman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Monday.
Since last year, the city has been studying hiring a private manager to run the system more efficiently and install smart parking meters.
Other U.S. cities are already exploring more modern parking meters. Denver, Colorado, and Santa Monica, California, have parking meters that use underground sensors to erase leftover time. Solar-powered meters also are available as are meters that let drivers pay with mobile phones.
The companies New York City might hire to privatize its system must suggest ways in which technology could help drivers find parking spaces and give them more payment options. Drivers currently can pay at meters with cash or debit and credit cards.
The Bloomberg administration has said it will not require any upfront payment and that it will avoid some of the problems other cities have encountered with similar privatizations.
In 2008, Chicago leased its parking meters for 75 years in return for a one-time payment of $1.15 billion, but the deal is very unpopular, partly because fees rose sharply.
New York City has said it will retain control over meter rates, installation and removal of meters, operating hours of metered spaces, enforcement and adjudications.
It will also require a parking meter operator to pledge $100 million of collateral and have experience running at least 100,000 parking spaces.
Unions have contested the plan to privatize New York City's parking meters because they are concerned that the 466 unionized workers who now collect parking fees would be laid off.
Lillian Roberts, executive director of District Council 37, the largest municipal union, said on Monday that a private parking contract was unnecessary because "city parking system workers are already doing an excellent job, generating approximately $1.2 million per worker in revenue."
The city estimates that it collected $99 million in net revenue from its parking system in the 2012 fiscal year that ended on June 30. It expects that amount to rise to $124 million in 2013.
By the end of this year, New York City expects to have installed muni-meters, which allow for payment with credit and debit cards, throughout the five boroughs.
(Reporting By Joan Gralla)