Parking, meters, technology (2)

The 21st century gives way to the 20th

Late last year we discussed parking technologies and the pilot program of smart metering that was implemented around Linn Park downtown. Those high-tech meters–solar powered, accepting credit cards, remotely programmable for different times of day and week, etc.–are now gone. Instead, above we see standard old-fashioned meters once again lining Park Place, and a blank sign post which used to say “pay here” standing next to the empty concrete pad which held the machine.

Does anyone know if the pilot program was deemed successful, and whether this is a temporary regression before rolling out new technology across the city? Or is this an indication of something else? While this is just one piece of upgrading our urban parking system, it’s a vital one.

15 responses to “Parking, meters, technology (2)

  1. I’m just guessing, but based on historical behavior, I’d say you should continue to set your watch back 10 years…it IS Birmingham!

  2. Jeremy- Funny you should mention the new metering system. I heard just yesterday from a reliable source that the verdict is still out on the new meters. So far, a lot of people have found them to be confusing. However, the City has proceeded with installing a number of vandal-proof meters in a few locations. They just don’t have the money to purchase more of them.

    In 2010, I was part of one of the advisory committees created by Mayor Bell to look at how the City functioned and to make recommendations for improvements. One of the recommendations that came forward was that Traffic Engineering be allowed to keep the money from the meters to purchase newer meters. Currently, all of that money goes into the City’s General Fund. I don’t think this was ever forwarded on to the City Council for consideration.

    In my opinion, the responsibility for the meters should be given to the Bham Parking Authority. It makes absolutely no sense that parking meters, parking decks and public parking lots are handled by different entities. It is all parking! And take to that a step further, all of this should ultimately fall under the auspices of a Downtown Redevelopment Authority. The way we are doing things now is very inefficient and does not create the best environment for nurturing downtown revitalization.

    • Excellent points. New metering, parking decks and pricing, park-and-ride lots, transit transfers–all should be coordinated. Right now everything is fragmented, an all-to-common condition in this city.

      As to confusion, I’m sure there’s a learning curve in any city when these come in. People get familiar over time. Thanks.

    • Let’s hope they didn’t remove them because of “confusion” with new users.This would only strengthen the assumption that the government here in town doesn’t have faith in its people, when it’s actually the other way around.

      I do know that, in other cities, they’re looking for ways to install “smarter” meters that erase the time allotted when the car pulls out, so that the next person can’t ride on the coat tails of a previous patron. Perhaps they’re looking for this technology prior to reinstalling?

      I actually bought 3 hrs when I went to the courthouse one time, but my visit only took a minute, so when I came out, I handed my ticket to the guy pulling in. Good for him, indifferent for me, bad for the city.

      • Totally agreed: the government–perhaps specifically the traffic engineering department–needs to have more faith in the abilities of citizens.

        I hope you’re right about tweaking the technology rather than delaying it indefinitely. While there’s a certain urban pleasure in finding the meter with time left on it, in the end it would be much fairer to have everyone expecting the same rate if they use a meter. And as you point out, much smarter for the City. Thanks.

  3. Well that’s disappointing. As someone who frequently doesn’t have change for the meters, I liked being able to slide my debit card for a ticket. Haven’t they been testing this program in other parts of town? I feel like I’ve seen those meters in other places downtown.

    • I’m not sure about other parts of town, although that may have been the case. Other cities have been implementing smart meters across the country, so I hope we don’t fall even further behind in this matter. Thanks.

  4. They’re probably being stored in the same warehouse with all the kilometer signs that were up for a while in the mid-1990s.

  5. Michael Calvert

    A comprehensive approach incorporating the DART buses as well as parking meters and parking decks would be ideal. The DART,which now begins operation at 9 am (incredibly, a practice that began as a shopper’s convenience in the 1960s) could easily provide access to inexpensive, remote parking for downtown employees who cannot afford $100/month if it began at 7 am. Spaces are available near the BJCC and other peripheral areas.

    This would leave ample parking in decks for employees willing to pay for the convenience and curbside parking for visitors. Parking decks should offer special deals for patrons of restaurants, stores and other downtown businesses. Finally overnight parking for residents should be provided at very low cost.since the spaces are largely vacant at night.

    There are numerous ways technology could be used to realize these benefits, but sensible policies need to be adopted first.

    • Excellent example of how meters are just part of comprehensive thinking about parking. Is there any hope that such thinking is on the horizon–like it’s been in Chattanooga for decades? And if not, what’s intrinsic about Birmingham that’s preventing it? Thanks.

  6. It’s a shame that they’ve gotten rid of the new meters, but I do agree that they were difficult to use. After using them in bigger cities, like Boston, the ones installed seemed more difficult – having to find your spot number, and enter it, and also waiting in line behind everyone else who was confused. Most systems in major cities just require you to input your time, and print out a sticker to place on your window. Maybe we can hope for the exploration of a different type of system.

    • I’ve been in cities that have both methods, and I would agree that the ticket system seems a bit less confusing. These machines here printed out tickets as receipts anyway, so maybe they can be programmed for either method. With any luck they will come back again, this time printing out tickets for another trial run! Thanks.

  7. Pingback: Lessons from Macon | Bhamarchitect's Blog

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