Why Conventional Parking Meters?
This article was adapted from a presentation made during a “power pitch” hour at the IPI convention in Dallas. Bobra Wilbanks of POM Inc. acknowledges her bias for the single-space meter. Editor
Enforcement – if we’ve learned anything in the 70 years that single-space meters have been around, it’s the importance of enforcement. Without enforcement, people will quickly learn not to pay. A high-visibility signal makes enforcement the easiest of any other type of equipment. Make the enforcement officer’s job easy, and he or she will do a better job.
Cost. Re-use your old parking meter housings and just upgrade the insides with electronic inserts. Recycling is green, and you’re saving a lot of green.
Convenience. Especially for people in a hurry, the elderly, students late for class, parents with children in tow, standing in line in bad weather, remembering your space number or finding it in the snow. If one meter is out of order, others are still working. If one pay station is out of order, many spaces can be affected. If a person’s cellphone battery or in-car-meter battery goes dead, he’d better find a parking meter or go home.
Less confusion. There’s no doubt that if a meter is at your parking space, you must pay. If a meter is jammed, you’ll see that on a high-visibility display; so just don’t park there. If a pay station malfunctions, all those people I just mentioned now have to walk another half or full block to find the next machine. They will likely have a ticket on the window by the time they get back. If you have only cellphone parking, and your cellphone goes dead, you can’t park anywhere.
Maintenance issues. Quick switch-out of parts, easy on-street jam clearance, only one parking space affected. Most people with meters have never attended a training school or even asked for one. Most issues can be handled on the phone in a few minutes with a mechanism in front of you, out on the street or in your air conditioned or heated office – try that with a pay station.
How do parking meters fit or compare with cellphone parking? If you get a system that pushes time on the meter, then you can retain your same fast, efficient, one method of enforcement – driving around looking for the red signal. Otherwise, your enforcement officer is driving around trying to match up each license plate number or sticker number with a space number on a printout. Part of your revenue is going to a service provider. There are no privacy issues or contested charges with parking meters. These last two arguments apply to credit card payment as well.
The most common arguments we hear:
Aesthetics of parking meters. However, if you remove all the individual parking meters and put in lots of informational signs telling people where and when they must pay and the location of the machines, or how and where to use your cellphone to park, have you really gained anything? And how do you drive around reading those signs without slowing down traffic behind you? Improve the aesthetics of the individual meters with Victorian poles and bases.
No receipts with parking meters. However, that is actually not a bad thing. USA Weekend quotes Thomas Kostigen, co-author of “The Green Book”: “If we just said no to ATM receipts, the volume of paper saved could circle the equator 15 times.” Perhaps parking receipts would circle the equator a few times as well.
What about credit cards? There has been a lot of recent negative online press about credit card use in parking equipment, e.g., in Toronto, Des Moines and Columbus, Ohio. Smartcard readers are more reliable, there’s no chance of identity fraud, and risk to the card carrier is limited to the amount of cash on the card if it is lost or stolen. Credit cards incur minimum fees, high transaction fees, not to mention charge-back fees if contested. Finally, the cost of credit card parking meters has, so far, been significantly more than that of prepaid card meters, with lower pay-back.
What to look for when
purchasing parking meters:
A high-visibility display allows quicker drive-by enforcement. It can be seen from farther away, so enforcement doesn’t have to make as many stops, leave the car running, etc. Compare a high-visibility display with a liquid-crystal display, in-car meters, vouchers and pay station receipts. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority recently installed 3,500 new meters in its park-and-ride lots that feature high-visibility enforcement signals.
Options such as enforcement signal, multi-application smartcard system, smart lock, gripper wedges, free-time button, jam-resistant anti-cheat coin chute, tapered housing base, and Magnum maximum-capacity vault are all proven features that perform. They make the meters easy to use, easy to enforce, easy to maintain, and they earn their keep.
Bobra Wilbanks is Technical Sales Manager for POM Inc. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.