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Parking meters go far beyond old coin-op models

By From page A1 | January 23, 2014

ParkMeterW

Kathleen Lee of Davis pays for parking at the E Street parking lot after taking her children to Watermelon Music for music lessons Wednesday afternoon. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

Set aside the question of whether parking meters will go downtown. That’s up to the City Council in the coming year, and Davis won’t get that answer soon.

Now, think about parking meters. Chances are, you’re thinking of the old style that accepts only coins and doesn’t give you your balance back if you return to your car early. Things have changed.

A brown-bag lunch meeting Wednesday at the Pence Gallery addressed many of the technological issues surrounding what could happen if the council says yes to parking meters. What could the new meters look like? What kind of payments would they take? Will these meters have brains, so to speak?

Mike King gave an overview of recent parking meter technologies. He’s an expert because he oversees all the parking infrastructure in Sacramento, a city that could use its parking meter buying leverage to help Davis if parking meters go in the southeast quadrant of downtown — called the core of the downtown core, roughly bounded by D Street, the railroad tracks, First Street and Third Street.

Sacramento has been replacing all of its old-fashioned change meters with so-called smart meters that take credit cards and spit out data to city parking planners about how popular spaces are at what time of day and whether the people occupying them need a ticket because they’ve been in them too long. The city could charge more for top spaces in peak hours.

King also had a part in transforming the city of San Francisco’s parking meters as well. The region’s two major cities had different ways of doing it, but came out with systems that reduced congestion in high demand areas. That congestion was caused mostly by people slowing to look for parking spaces. That was accomplished by algorithms and phone apps that gave people hints about where parking would be available.

Payment is the biggest difference among the new meters. Some print out a slip that drivers place on their dashboard; more advanced options print out removable stickers that go on the inside of the window. Still others require painted space numbers and can be paid with a smartphone. Some other cities use a meter that hangs on the rear-view mirror, so users can take their accrued time with them if they move to another space.

King said once the City Council makes the policy ruling on parking meters, the decisions about what type of meter and form of payment will follow.

However, Sacramento negotiated a deal on sticker-producing smart meters that city staff at the brown-bag meeting said could help Davis buy individual meters hundreds of dollars cheaper — in the $425 range — than if Davis went seeking its own contract. This compares to a potential price of $700 per meter. That’s all dependent on what kind of warranty plan and true eventual negotiating price the two entities might agree on.

— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews

Dave Ryan

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