Bob Ingrassia has a post up on the Fast Horse blog about the painfully slow parking meters being installed in downtown Minneapolis. The post includes a video showing how long it takes between when money is inserted and a receipt is kicked out. Beyond the long delay, there is no feedback that the machine is even working during that period. Perhaps they should install some modem handshake sounds?
I haven’t tried using the meters with cash, but have used them with credit cards a few times. To me, the workflow of the meters wasn’t exactly intuitive. As I remember it, you had to put your credit card in before you knew how much it was going to cost, which is a bit disconcerting.
I think it’s smart to move toward these meters. Not having a couple pounds of quarters in the car can be a deterrent to visit downtown businesses. Adjustable pricing also allows the city to dynamically adjust meters based on times of day or days of week.
One comment on the Fast Horse site that interested me was this one from someone who’s not too pleased with the new meters:
I’m annoyed that these meters even exist. It just increased my cost of doing business in the warehouse district significantly. Enough so that I’m out when my office lease is up.
It makes me wonder which costs have risen for this business person. It seems like this has the potential to increase business for merchants reliant on drive-up customers since metered spots may be less likely to be squatted on all day by downtown workers. If the business person is suggesting that their own cost of parking near their business will rise under this circumstance, I can see how that could be the case. But, I don’t think downtown metered parking was designed to accomodate 9-5 workers.
As I understand the opportunities for the new meters, at their best they can help decrease congestion. How? By dynamically pricing to a price where one spot is always open on a given block. This could train drivers to grab spots when they see them rather than circling around and around until a spot opens up. By dynamically pricing meters based on true demand, the city can charge the true cost of convenience. Let’s face it: it’s surprisingly convenient to be able to street park in downtown. If the city charges significantly less for meters vs. what ramps charge, we will have a situation where people circle around and around downtown looking for meters rather than getting their cars off the road. That’s not good for congestion, pollution, or safety.
UCLA Professor, Donald Shoup, studies parking, and breaks down how much we spend to accomodate parkers, and how we can do a better job with this:
I checked YouTube for more information on this, and found out that Montreal appears to be around 6 years ahead of us on this initiative:
They also point out that you can pay to top off your meter using any station in Montreal, rather than running a few blocks back to where your car is parked. Pretty slick.