Minneapolis installs 'smart' parking meters

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 9, 2010 - 7:49 PM

Everything you need to know (but were afraid to ask) about new computerized parking meters. Minneapolis began installing them in the North Loop on Tuesday.

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Why all the media attention? Public works crews are installing a new generation of “smart” parking meters in downtown Minneapolis, this one in the Warehouse District. They’re scheduled to be operational this weekend. Drivers will be able to pay using credit and debit cards or coins.

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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Minneapolis began installing new "smart" multi-space parking meters in the Warehouse District this week, computerized machines that will allow you to pay with coins or by debit or credit card.

The 46 new meters, which will service 450 parking spaces, will begin operating later this month.

The old meters will be removed, but the poles will remain, topped by a 30-inch sign that lists the parking space number and other information such as time limit and rush hours.

The city plans to replace all 6,800 metered spaces in Minneapolis by the end of 2012 with a combination of multi-meter and single-meter stations and single-space coin meters.

How do the new multi-meter stations work? There will be one station in the middle of the block on each side of the street. The station will list how long you can park. You type in your parking space number and the amount of time you'd like to park, and insert coins or debit card or credit card. You get a receipt.

What if you decide later you want to park longer? You can return to the meter and pay for more time, or go to any other pay station in the city and type in your space number, which will be listed on your receipt, and insert more coins or your debit or credit card. But you can't park longer than the time limit.

Soon, you may be able to add time using a cell phone, said Tim Drew, city traffic engineer.

Will parking rates go up? No, but it's easy enough for the city to reprogram meters to raise rates. The city can also change rates or time limits, depending on time or day, or raise the rates during events.

Any ecological benefits? The meters are solar powered. The city also plans to install bike racks on some of the old meter poles.

What if you don't speak English? The multi-station screen also has information in Spanish, French and German. If it can handle the translations within the limited screen space, the city hopes to replace the French and German with Hmong and Somali by next year.

Are other cities doing this? Lots. St. Paul is experimenting now. Minneapolis experimented last year and picked three companies out of 16 that submitted proposals.

What happened Tuesday? Workers were drilling holes in the sidewalk and bolting down multi-space meters.

What about more meters? The city plans to install 200 multi-space stations next year for about 2,000 spaces and 200 more such stations in 2012. In parts of the city where there can be only a few parking spaces on a block, there will be single pay stations. In a few parts of the city where there is less parking, the meters will be replaced, but the new ones will still be fed only by coins.

What are some advantages for the city? It will use its Wi-Fi network to transmit data on parking meter usage in real time to traffic control agents. Because many people will use debit or credit cards, meters will have to be emptied less often.

What is this costing the city and why is it being done now? It will cost $6.6 million. The multi-space stations cost about $8,000 each, the single space stations $450 each, compared to current coin meters that run $500. The old meters, installed around 1992, are wearing out.

What is the advantage to the customer? No more hunting for quarters in the ashtray or under the seat.

What if you are technologically challenged and have trouble using a meter? The LED computer screen will walk you through the process. Or you can just take the bus.

Randy Furst • 612-673-7382

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