Tech-savvy parking meters

Parking in downtown New Haven just got easier, smarter and greener.

Last week New Haven’s Department of Transportation replaced 48 old, mechanical parking meters with new, credit-card accepting, wireless meters as part of a 90 day trial run. While the meters are solar-powered, they are attractive for city officials because they collect data on parking usage and allow for more payment options for parkers.

New Haven’s new parking meters will let drivers pay with credit card.
New Haven’s new parking meters will let drivers pay with credit card.

This new system also enables city officials to exercise “dynamic parking,” said Jim Travers, Interim Director of New Haven’s Transportation Department.

“Dynamic parking says don’t put everyone on the same playing field,” he said. The meters allow city officials to collect data on parking spot usage in various parts of the city, allowing the officials to encourage parking in lower-usage areas by lowering the rate or extending the duration. Data is collected through a website run by the IPS Group, a global engineering and manufacturing company.

In an effort to convince New Haven city officials that the new meters are worth the switch, the corporation is providing free trial meters, which typically cost $495 apiece.

With the meter data transmittance, Travers said he can sit at his desk and see which meters need to be fixed, emptied, and how often each is used.

The benefit for parkers is that carrying a pound of change may soon be a thing of the past. Since the meters were installed on Jan. 11, 27 percent of parking fees have been paid with a credit card, Travers said. And based on reports from other cities using the new meters, he added, credit card usage will go up the longer the meters are installed.

Because the city chose to absorb the credit card processing fees rather than pass it along to parkers, Travers said, the minimum charge when paying by card is $1.50 or a full hour of parking. At this time, the meters only take Visa, MasterCard and Discover.

Travers added that parking violations might decrease with the added payment option. “If more people pay and violations go down, it will be a wash for the city and good for the citizens,” he said.

Downtown store owners are welcoming the possible new addition to the area.

Several merchants on Chapel Street said that they were constantly being asked to break bills. Gene Dostie, the manager at Derek Simpson Goldsmith on Chapel Street, said that he always has to remember to have extra quarters at the store. With the new meters sitting just outside his storefront, he seems happy, pointing out that paying with credit card is not only easier but will hopefully encourage people to stick around downtown longer.

“With quarters, you’re just throwing in the bare minimum,” he said.

Joe Lentine, the Owl Shop’s master tobacconist, expressed support for the new meters, saying, “I’m for whatever is more convenient for my customers.”

Besides Chapel Street, some solar-powered meters were installed near the Broadway shopping area, Travers said.

The city will make a decision whether or not to keep the meters or to invest in more when the 90-day trial period ends in early April.

The dynamic parking model was developed by Donald Shoup ’62, GRAD ’68, an urban planning professor at UCLA and author of “The High Cost of Free Parking.”

Comments

  • tartanjug1

    Wouldn’t it be less costly and aesthetically more pleasing if we had the parking voucher machines rather than individual meters? In Europe and many U.S. cities (NYC for instance) these voucher machines allow the parker to use different forms of payment. They are less likely to fail than the regular meters. If New Haven is touting the solar/eco energy supply of the new meters they should know that these voucher machines are also made in a solar version: http://www.parkingfacilities.co.uk/Pay&DisplaySystems.htm

  • Pocahontas

    That’s fine, tatanjug1, if you want to walk a block and stand in line in the rain or snow and wait to pay the machine, then walk back to your car to put the ticket on the dash. If the machine is down, then you walk some more and stand in a longer line, etc.

  • Pocahontas

    p.s. why can’t we just make our current meters take credit cards ?

  • IPSGroup

    @Pocahontas –actually, the new IPS Meters use the city’s existing meter housings and only replace the mechanism inside and the cover. So, essentially the 48 meters in New Haven that have been upgraded allow your current meters to take credit cards! It’s a win-win for cities and customers since they are cheaper than multi-space kiosks and are much more customer friendly.

  • nickss

    In other words, New Haven meter maids will now know exactly when your meter expires and be there to ticket you if you’re 1 minute late… they do this in Boston and it sucks (not for the city I guess, they make more money).

  • Cost1987

    Unfortunately these meters dont take my New Haven Parcxmart card which I have had for four years and it works fine everywhere except in these meters. Who is the bone head who made that decision everyone I know has a card. You may have 27% credit cards in those meters because you cant use anything else except coin. Finally, how is our bankrupt city going to pay for all of this? Sounds more like big brother to me and for some strange reason I think all of us will be paying the credit card fees with more and more rate increases. Perhaps the mayor could just cut a few budgets and let us all park for less than $8 per day………..oh I forgot they are going to treat us more fairly now that they grab our credit card numbers no way for this parker – you will never see my credit card going into that stratosphere machine I dont care what they say at Visa about protection and security.

  • Cost1987

    Perhaps everyone should read this link from LA because this is what it is all about:

    http://www.fightback.com/2010/09/credit-card-parking-meters-the-fleecing-of-los-angeles/

    Cost

  • Cost1987

    Lets look at the cost of the meters over time:

    $475 per meter one time@2750= $1,306million to purchase
    $5-7 per month per meter ongoing (online connectivity and maintenance per the company)
    $.13 per transaction on credit and debit
    $.10 minimum per transaction to Visa/MC for interchange

    So if the city implements these meters the monthly nut to cover the ongoing costs is $13,750 per month @$5 per space or meter. And they have to pay other transaction fees to the parking meter company and Visa/MC.

    Today the parking folks say they are getting 27% of all transactions on credit/debit. Most meters I have learned produce about $1000 annually. That means at 27%, $270 of the total revenue will be on credit/debit. If you divide $270/12=$22.50 per month per meter. Subtract the cost of the meters fixed charge at $5 per month and you have a whopping $22.5-$5=$17.50 per meter per month in credit/debit revenues times 2700 meters. So the total revenue produced by credit cards is $567,000 annually. And all of that is suppose to pay for the $1.3million dollars in new costs to purchase these meters? Remember all the hoopla over these meters is that they take credit/debit. But the real value to the city is still the coin revenue and the parking tickets.

    In short, at $17.50 per meter per month * 2700 meters, it will take the city about 3 years to pay for these meters on that cost line alone. Then if you factor in the additoinal processing costs of $.25 per transaction * 10 transactions per month per meter * 2700 you get another cost of $81,000 for the processing of the cards. So it will really take about 3.5 to 4 years to pay for the credit card benefit unless of course the city raises its rates once again so you can enjoy using your credit cards. FYI, most meters are paid for in less than a year. So this is not a good economic bargain by any means.

    Professor Cost

  • Pocahontas

    Does New Haven have the money to put in this equipment? Has there been a survey to find out how many of us would stop cheating and pay their meter if they could use their credit card? If it ain’t broke….