The old adage that time is money is particularly true for parking meters.
And in Lancaster city, time is becoming more expensive.
Beginning next month, a quarter placed in a city parking meter will buy 10 minutes of time instead of the 12 minutes a quarter currently buys.
The change, approved unanimously by the Lancaster Parking Authority board at a special meeting Tuesday morning, will take effect citywide on or before Jan. 15.
The additional revenue from the meters is expected to generate $150,000 to $200,000 annually for the authority.
"It comes down to the board having a fiduciary responsibility under our trust indenture to always have money to pay back the bonds," board Chairman Mark Vergenes said of debt payments on financing used to build the authority's five parking garages.
The increase in cost, or decrease in meter time, is the first for the meters in five years. In 2006, the time purchased for 25 cents decreased from 15 minutes to 12. Previously, the last increase had been in 1993.
Over the next month, each of the authority's approximately 800 mechanical meters will be opened and changed. New instructional signs will be added to the exterior of the 20 kiosks, and the kiosks will be reprogrammed to reflect the change.
Some of those meters will be out of service while the changes are made. Downtown parking meters will be covered with bags for the week before Christmas to encourage downtown shopping, said Jennifer Baker, director of the Mayor's Office of Special Events, which operates that program.
Bags will be on the meters from Dec. 19-24, Baker said.
When the changes are complete, motorists will be paying $1.50 per hour to park along the street in downtown Lancaster and in areas around Lancaster General Hospital and Lancaster Regional Medical Center.
That hourly rate is the same as in Reading and Harrisburg, Vergenes said. It is slightly higher than in York, but Vergenes said garage rates in York are higher.
Lancaster's hourly garage rates and monthly fees for contract parking will not be affected by the change.
"Our contract parkers are the lifeblood of our business," Vergenes said. Any increase in garage rates would be a significant cost to major employers such as Fulton Bank or Lancaster County government.
"In this economy, it's just not prudent at this juncture," Vergenes said of a cost increase.
In addition to the increased revenue from the meters, Vergenes said several steps have been made to trim costs. He cited reducing salary increases for employees in the coming year and delaying major maintenance items in the garages.
The authority will soon complete an ongoing major maintenance project. The replacement of elevators in the Prince Street, Duke Street and Penn Square garages came at a cost of $2 million, but is expected to save the authority money in service costs and cut electricity costs by as much as 50 percent.
That project started in June and is expected to be completed when the last elevator in the Prince Street Parking Garage is replaced in early February.
The Parking Authority is an entity of the Lancaster city government, but is not funded with tax money. The authority sustains itself with garage fees and meter revenues.