How long does it take to install a new parking meter?
After most of a year’s debate over how much to charge for parking, and a year to discuss whether to buy new meters, they still aren’t in the ground.
City officials intended to install new parking stations on 19 blocks downtown in October.
Then they hit more snags.
“We had some difficulties with the manufacturer,” said Director of Operations William Winkler. “By the time we had that straightened out, it was the middle of winter. Everything was frozen.”
Now it’s spring, but city officials still can’t install them.
It turns out city code requires each meter to be a certain distance from the parking space. But parking stations will be placed in the middle of each block.
The farthest any driver will have to walk is five spaces, but that’s much more than the code allows. It says the meter must be “immediately adjacent to the individual parking places.”
The City Council is now discussing changing the code to allow the stations.
The new goal is to start installation on June 1, Winkler said.
One silver lining: the city has not had to pay the monthly fee for each station yet. That fee won’t go into effect until the stations are up and running, Winkler said.
There will be 19 stations downtown. Workers will remove all the old meters, cutting them off flush with the sidewalk, and will use them for parts, Winkler said.
A few meters throughout the city have broken down, and many of them are so old that they can’t be fixed unless the city can scrounge up extra parts.
Broken meters was one of the reasons for switching to stations. The city is losing money in several high-traffic areas because drivers know which meters are broken. A parking space with a broken meter near the police station is almost always taken.
With the new stations also comes the loss of another popular way to avoid paying the meter: the last driver’s unused time.
With the stations, each driver gets a ticket with his paid time listed. When the car moves, the ticket goes with it, and the next driver must pay in full.
The stations will run on solar power. They take credit cards as well as cash, and the tickets can be used to park anywhere downtown until the time expires. That means a driver could go to several locations, parking each time, but only pay once.
Winkler thinks drivers will like the convenience of paying with a card, rather than fumbling for quarters.
But the downtown will serve as a test of the technology. If it goes well, it will be expanded throughout the city, he said.
“It’s our trial period to see if there’s problems. I really don’t think there’s going to be,” he said, but added, “Some people don’t like to walk the 5 spaces to the station and walk back to put the ticket in their window.”
The stations could charge as much as $2 an hour, but there’s no plans to do that now, Winkler said.
“I doubt very much you will see $2 an hour any place for a while,” he said. “We’ll probably have some different zones.”