Single-Space Meters vs. Pay-and-Display Systems

Single-Space Meters Aren't Ready for the Scrap Heap

Felicia Martin

To understand where single-space technology is the proper solution, one should look at why pay-and-display technology has become popular. This boils down to four main points:
* Increased revenue over single space by eliminating meter feeding.
* Cost-of-labor savings on maintenance and collections.
* Aesthetics.
* Wider range of payment options.
These features make pay-and-display systems appealing, but is this always the right choice?
To help you make an informed decision, let's consider the following:
Take a beachfront community, in which every available spot into which a car can fit has been turned into paid parking, resulting in a meter plant that is broken into several small areas. You might have seven spaces on a dead-end street, but the beachfront has a dead-end street on every block. Would it be economically feasible to have single-space meters at an average cost of $300 per or one pay-and-display system at a cost of $6,000 to $15,000, depending on the features chosen (cost per space for spaces = $800 to $2100)?
Potential revenue from each space should be evaluated. If the return on investment in low-usage areas is long, you may not benefit from increased revenue that pay-and-display equipment might bring in. The low cost of a single-space meter would make these spaces profitable in a shorter period of time.
Depending on the type of machine selected, enforcement requirements increase with pay-and-display systems. The enforcement officer must physically approach each vehicle to verify the time on the ticket. Single-space meters have been designed for drive-by enforcement, requiring stops only at those occupied spaces showing time has expired. This is not the case with pay-by-space.
New technology advancements in single-space meter installations has taken a giant leap into the future with the introduction of vehicle-detection technology. The key feature of this technology gives the meter an eye in which to see each vehicle, so that when a vehicle exits the parking space, the meter sees this and resets itself to zero. The ability to recapture this time that would have been lost in the past guarantees a substantial increase in revenue. With this add-on technology, your electronic meters can provide much of the statistical information at one time reserved to pay-and-display.
Environment plays a very important role in the choice of single-space vs. Pay-and-display. If winters are brutal or other extreme weather patterns occur, parking patrons are reluctant to walk six to 12 car spaces to and from a pay-and-display, and then go on to their destination. If you make them, you will eat up profits by having to handle the complaints that will inevitably come piling in. Again, this is not the case with pay-by-space.
One must also remember that with advances in technology come greater levels of training required to properly maintain a parking installation. Single-space technology, while electronically driven to allow information to be sent to and from the meter quickly and accurately, still maintains a level of simplicity that most cities can maintain without outside help.
More complex systems can be complicated, highly technical pieces of equipment, requiring contracted labor or the manufacturer, specially trained for that system, to maintain or repair the system for you. Otherwise, the personnel required and the training involved with self-maintenance can eat into your revenue.
With pay-and-display technology, you want to manage as many parking spaces as possible with each piece of equipment. If a unit goes down, you're not losing revenue from one parking space; you're losing revenue from several spaces. Additionally, if the necessary repair falls outside the capabilities of the parking technicians, these spaces could be down for as long as 24 hours. It doesn't take long for lost revenue to start mounting. With single-space meters, you go out and repair or replace it in a matter of minutes and you're back in business. There's very little, if any, lost revenue, and it involves only one parking space.
While pay-and-display has beneficial applications, single-space meters do as well. In parking, there is rarely one right answer. These two systems, when put together, can maximize a parking installation.
Basically, each potential installation should be thoroughly evaluated. Taking the aspects discussed above into consideration, among others, a proper determination can be made that would best serve the city's interest, as well as that of the parking public.

Felicia Martin is Regional Sales Manager for Duncan Parking Technologies. She can be reached at

Article Abstract from February, 2004

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