Meter Options Create Diverse Solutions and Decisions for Cities By Melissa Bean Sterzick
“I think that meters have to have a great deal of flexibility in terms of being able to integrate with both a variety of payment technologies and multiple technology vendors, says According to IPS Group Chief Operating Officer Chad Randall, there are likely to be more and more possibilities. Manufacturers have to be engineering meters today for the needs of the future.”
Traditionally, multi-space meters represented the only system that could provide payment options beyond coin. But the credit card capability has renewed the viability of the single space option. Today, customers can choose from Single Space, Multi Space, Pay by Space, and Pay and Display, with enhanced features such as the Pay by License Plate option which eliminates the need for cities to mark spaces and Pay-by-Cell which is an attractive option for customers in extreme climates.
Market Must Mature Further
“All these issues complicate the decision making process. We are waiting for the market to mature a little. The reality is that it’s just not quite there yet. There’s still some product development that needs to happen,” says Dennis Burns, Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. regional vice president.
The introduction of the credit card capable single space meter is viewed as one of the biggest developments in recent years and many cities have had remarkable success with introducing the meters. Two years ago, the City of New Haven, CT, successfully launched a credit card-enabled single space meter pilot project and immediately saw a steady increase in credit card transactions.
A year after the meters were deployed city-wide, credit cards accounted for half of all meter transactions. Moreover, city parking revenue increased by 30 percent. City of New Haven Parking Administrator Jim Travers concludes, “There is nothing that I have done in my work that will ever surpass introducing credit card accepting single space meters.”
Combination of Technologies
to Meet City Needs
Laguna Beach, CA, has opted for a hybrid solution to meet its parking payment needs. Laguna Beach Manager of Parking Facilities Operations Ken Fischer says the city uses a combination of credit-card capable meters for high traffic areas and coin meters in lower volume areas. There are also several lots with pay stations or pay and display and the city provides a free downtown trolley to ease congestion. “I think that it’s beneficial to have a pay station, but those work best in outlying areas where customers tend to park longer and use it as an alternative to garage parking. But in central business districts the per space parking meter meets a need. Customers want that quick and easy option,” states Fischer.
Randall says he thinks it’s likely that cities will continue to provide a variety of payment methods and allow the public to choose which one it thinks is most convenient. “I think the market trend was certainly headed away from the single space meter to a pay station for the primary reason of the credit card capability and wireless connectivity. I think that’s the direction a lot of cities were going. What IPS did was fulfill and unmet need in the market with our single-space technology,” he says. “Not only is it far more cost effective, but you can’t underestimate the simplicity of it, especially in colder climates, or even when it’s raining. You want to pay easily and conveniently and go.”
Tighter Budgets Look to Parking for Added Revenue
Randall says further advances in parking meter technology, intelligent transportation systems, demand based pricing strategies, including both parking rate increases and decreases, are trends that will benefit any municipality that is making changes to parking policy. “Cities today need additional sources of revenue more than ever, and I think our current economy has truly highlighted the importance of parking revenue and efficient management of parking operations,” he says. “Parking technology, including the wide variety of technologies that cities have to choose from, will play a significant role in realizing the full potential of parking systems today.”
Melissa Bean Sterzick is a staff writer for Parking Today.
She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.