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Pacific Grove Gets 'Smart' Parking Meters

Pacific Grove, CA, recently joined the ranks of cities operating parking meters. But in this case, they chose Smart Meters over the common digital parking control mechanism. The 100 Smart Meters were installed on the streets next to the American Tin Cannery Outlet Center and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. These entities attract more than 2 million visitors annually to this seaside community in Central California.
City Manager Ross Hubbard explained that parking in this area was in extremely high demand, serving customers of the outlets, visitors to the aquarium and employees of both operations.
The product of the integration vehicle detection technology and specially programmed standard digital meters, Smart Meters can perform a variety of functions not possible with standard digital meters.
They utilize a loop detector-like device that is cut into each parking space. This detects when the car arrives and leaves. This enables the unit, if desired by the owner, to reset after each car leaves and provides a grace period upon the vehicle's arrival.
The meters use a proven detector technology that works in any environment and is not sensitive to motion, light or snow. The technology can be interfaced to any electronic parking meter.
"The entire process was very easy, completing the entire installation without any drain on the city's resources," Hubbard said. "When it was finished, our personnel were trained and handed the keys to a fully operational system."
City Parking Enforcement Officer Tony Marino said, "We've received only a couple of negative comments from the public. Most responses have been very positive, citing the better availability of parking spaces."
What makes this installation especially noteworthy is that Pacific Grove is the first municipality to utilize the system's new progressive rate option. This feature enables Smart Meters to accurately charge users higher hourly rates for longer-term visits. For example, the city still discourages longer-term parking, but no longer by tire chalking and the issuance of citations. Now PG, it encourages space turnover by charging patrons $1 per hour for each of the first two hours of a visit; $2 per hour for each of the next two hours; and after four hours, $4 per hour. This approach is a new solution to the "time limit" problems arising from any mixed-use parking locations such as those in Pacific Grove.
The city also chose to use these other features:
"Arrival Grace Time," which posts five minutes to the city's meter clocks automatically when a vehicle enters the parking space.
"Meter Timer Reset," which recaptures unused and abandoned time when the vehicle departs from the space.
"Anti-Meter Feeding," which at some city spaces will not allow the purchase time beyond the posted maximum time limit.
InnovaPark is the supplier of the technology. Managing Partner Kirby Andrews noted: "We are excited about our relationship with the city of Pacific Grove, and welcome its decision to employ so many of the various features that our technology provides."
Early indications are that the meters are providing a higher turnover in parking than had been previously observed, and without the need for tire chalking, which was previously necessary to enforce the two-hour time limit. This is partly attributable to the fact that employees are no longer monopolizing the prime spaces for the entire day. And, as a bonus, the meters have provided an additional source of revenue to the city.
It seems Pacific Grove has come up with a formula for installing parking meters that not only serve the purpose for which they were intended, but also that the public likes.


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An interesting note:
The California Coastal Commission, acting on a complaint from a resident who got a parking ticket, has requested that the city of Pacific Grove cover all the meters and stop their use while the commission rules on whether or not the meters can be installed.
In California any construction, addition, or change taking place within 1,000 feet of the coast must be approved by the commission. The City, saying that it has asked the commission if approval was necessary and, getting no response, proceeded with the meter installation.
The Commission is demanding that the city stop the meter use. The city, fearing a long approval cycle leading in to its high tourist season is saying an emphatic NO!. The meters are staying and money is continuing to be collected.
Stay tuned.

Article Abstract from April, 2004




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