Hundreds more high-tech parking meters appear ready to hit the Elm City.
At a Thursday night meeting of the Board of Aldermen’s Finance Committee, aldermen unanimously recommended an appropriation of $550,000 for about 290 meters that accept credit card payments. Jim Travers, interim director of the city’s Transportation, Traffic and Parking Department, said the electronic meters could save the city
“Who actually carries cash anymore?” quipped Ward 29 Alderman and Board President Carl Goldfield after the meeting, adding that he looks forward to a more convenient parking system.
By enabling residents to pay for parking with credit cards, Travers said, the new meters would save them the inconvenience of scrounging for coins. Many may actually overestimate how much time they will need, generating added revenue for the city, Travers added. The new meters will also be equipped with technology that will eventually enable payment by smartphones.
Fifty electronic meters are already installed on Chapel Street between College and York Streets, and on Broadway between York Street and Tower Parkway, as part of a pilot program, Travers said. Since February, the pilot program area has seen a 33 percent spike in revenue generated, with about 30 percent of parkers using credit cards to pay.
The planned 290 new meters would be installed around the city’s central business district as well as outside Union Station. Office of Management and Budget staffer Becky Bombero said she predicts the 290 new meters would be operational before the next fiscal year starts July 1.
Travers brought a sample of the new meters for aldermen to see Thursday night. An LED light flashes red when parking time is expired, and remains green otherwise.
One of the major benefits the city sees in switching to electronic meters is the ability to establish “dynamic pricing,”Bombero said. With the guidance of the Board of Aldermen, the city could set different parking rates for different times of the day, charging more during peak hours.
Dynamic pricing is the most significant benefit of the new meters from the city’s perspective, Goldfield said, because of the added revenue it could generate.
Hard metal signs posting time limits may soon be obsolete, Travers said, because a digital screen on the meter will indicate the rate structure. Jeffrey Kerekes, a New Haven resident who spoke to the committee Thursday night, asked why the city is not considering pay stations that would cover several parking spaces.
One benefit of single-space electronic meters over pay stations is that they are easier to enforce, Travers responded.
“Red means a ticket, green means keep walking,” Travers said. “With a pay station you have to look in each car’s window, rely on people to put their receipt in correctly, and deal with possible snow on the windshield.”
Unlike pay stations, the new meters could be built on existing city infrastructure, Travers said, with a solar-powered payment device installed on top of mechanical meters.
They are also cheaper and more user-friendly than pay stations, Travers added.
“I think they’re friggin’ cool,” Ward 9 Alderman Matt Smith ’98 said after Travers’ and Bombero’s testimony Thursday night.
The 290 new meters would take only one workday to install, Travers said, adding that it took only an hour and 20 minutes to install all 50 meters in the pilot program area on Chapel Street and Broadway.
The plan for the new meters now heads to the full Board of Aldermen, which will likely take a final vote on it in April.