Magazine

Why Multi-Space Parking Meters?

By Dan Kupferman

Oklahoma City had an unusual problem back in 1935. Employees were taking up all the downtown parking spaces. Some things never change.
“My invention relates to meters for measuring the time of occupancy or use of parking or other space, for the use of which it is desirous an incidental charge be made upon a time basis.” So begins Carl C. Magee’s patent request on May 13, 1935, for the first coin-controlled parking meter.
Today, in the United States alone, about five million parking meters are collecting those “incidental charges.” If we estimate a conservative average of $1 per day being deposited in each of those meters six days per week (no Sundays), we’re talking about $1.565 billion per year. That’s a lot of quarters!
I don’t know about you, but if that’s my money, I want to make sure of a few things:
1) I want all my customers to pay.
2) I want all my meters to work.
3) I want all my money to find its way to my bank account.
Guess what? With conventional meters, all my customers are not paying. A lot of them don’t have any quarters on them; they’d pay if they could. And though I have enforcement people writing tickets, let’s face it, they can’t be everywhere. I can’t afford to have enforcement on every street!
To make matters worse, a lot of my meters are out of service. They jam easily and are easily put out of service by some of my less scrupulous customers. Sometimes the meters are out of service for days, or even weeks before they’re discovered, reported and repaired.
Wait – there’s more. Ask me how much money I have in each of my meters. I have no idea! I have to wait until my collectors come back, and my counters add up all those quarters. I hope they get it right, because I can’t even conduct an audit. There has to be “a better way.”
Well, this is the last straw – the downtown business association is now complaining about the way the meters look! You have to be kidding! What’s a few bent poles here and there? What do you mean they’re an eyesore? When did “streetscape” even become a word?
But wait a minute – this isn’t 1935; it’s 2008! There have been technological advances! We’re not stuck with the old conventional single-space meters anymore! Today’s multi-space parking meters out-perform conventional parking meters in virtually every way:
• Multi-space meters give customers more ways to pay. Multi-space meters can accept coins, bills, credit and debit cards, smart cards, and even cellphone payments. When you give people more ways to pay, they’ll pay! An added benefit is that absolutely everyone pays. Multi-space meters do not show unused time on their display screens, so customers no longer get to park for free by piggybacking on the time of the person who parked before them.
• Multi-space meters are extremely vandal-resistant. The best ones have a shutter at the coin slot that will not open for paper or cardboard, and will let paper clips and slugs pass through without incident. Bill acceptors allow for four-way insertion – it’s idiot-proof! In the unlikely event the machine does malfunction, an alarm is automatically sent to you wirelessly, which advises you of the condition, so you can fix it; downtime is minimized. In the meantime, customers can simply pay via another form of payment (coin/bill/card, etc.), or they can walk to the next multi-space meter to pay, so there is no loss of revenue.
• Multi-space meters count and report revenue as it’s deposited into the machine. This means I’ll know if any money is missing. My employees will know that I know, too. The reports are real-time and online. I’ll even know when my employees are at the meter – I’ll get an alarm and a report advising me that the door is open, a collection is in process, how much was collected, etc.
• Multi-space pay meters provide remarkably accurate and detailed financial reports and statistics. Since every transaction is reported and recorded, I’m able to sort revenue and volume by machine, location, time of day, amount paid, type of payment, etc. The entire city can be networked together and/or divided into neighborhoods, zones, streets, etc. These statistical data lead to effective analysis and planning.
• How many coins does a conventional meter hold? Thirty to fifty dollars in quarters? Multi-space meters can hold $700 in quarters, and $500 in bills. Fewer meters are required, and fewer collections are required. With credit card and bill payments, collections are faster and easier – far fewer coins to transport, count, roll and deposit.
• Multi-space meters are environmentally friendly machines – 100% solar-powered, with no need to dig up streets running power lines or cables and no electric bill! Also, their rechargeable batteries are recyclable as are the units themselves at the end of their on-street lives.
• Multi-space meters improve the streetscape. I think most of them are better looking than pole-mounted conventional meters, but you may disagree. One thing’s for sure; there will be far fewer of them on each street since one multi-space meter can manage a full block.
• Multi-space meter display screens can be programmed to communicate in multiple languages. Customers can push a button to select their language. Magnifico! Magnifique! Ausgezeichnet!
In summary, why choose multi-space parking meters? Because we can! Technology has made our lives better in so many ways. It’s time to take advantage of all the advances since 1935 and start using the technology of today!
Dan Kupferman spent 16 years as a parking operator before joining Parkeon as a Business Development Manager.
Contact him at dkupferman@parkeon.com.

Article Abstract from February, 2009




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