Minneapolis Parking Meter Experiences

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.

10 thoughts on “Minneapolis Parking Meter Experiences”

  1. In all sincerity, it’s the seniority-ridden bureaucracies that run Minnesota’s state and local governments. I just wrote about the massively counter-intuitive parking system in place at 600 Robert Street, a state office building.

    In my neighborhood, I just attended a traffic calming meeting. The agenda was on the board when I walked in and no questions were permitted for the first hour. I’m guessing they wanted everyone in the room to prove their commitment to the process before the meeting holders deigned to answer any questions. (All the questions I had could have been answered simply by posting the map they’d put on the wall on their website, but I’m guessing that would have been too easy….)

    I’m hoping some genius in the lege passes a law mandating the posting of key project information online before government can make any purchasing decisions. As one of the “victims” of Midway light rail construction, I sure wish I’d known more about how poorly planned construction would be before I supported light rail. I still support light rail, but I will NEVER trust any project put forward by the Metropolitan Council again, and I’m guessing 90% of the nightmares Midway’s been going through could have been avoided had they put their plans online and solicited public feedback beforehand. (Allowing left turns in congested construction zones paralyzes thru-traffic? who’d a guessed it?!)

    The longer I live here, the more thoroughly unimpressed I am by Minnesota government.

  2. @Andrew, could I accelerate my track to Rooneyville with some fake white eyebrows?

    The Minneapolis meters have some execution issues. I’ve had good luck with electronic systems in other cities. It seems like the programmers need to actually watch people attempt to use the meters to get a feel for how they could make the process simpler.

  3. The concept is great but the interface is slow and archaic. I’ve had people ask me to help them (suburbanites?) a few times. They are probably designed that way, at least in part, to reduce the number of ways and ease in which a young miscreat could vandalize these new meters. Don’t know that this should affect the speed of the meter though; like you said, there is a very long delay in waiting for the reciept. As far as paying with cash, I have tried to use quarters a number of times and rarely does it work. Most of the time they just go right through. One final beef- the fluctuating rates when games or events are going on. Near Target Field you are going to pay an “event rate” about 3 or 4 days a week all summer. All that’s doing is penalizing people whom aren’t going to the game, but still want to do something and/or patronize businesses downtown or in the North Loop. It’s just a racket, because they know people are going to park there no matter what but since it’s a game day they triple the price.

    But yeah overall the new meters are a great innovation because using a card is convenient if you don’t have quarters. That in itself outweighs any of the negatives.

  4. Besides the Shoup stuff, the new meters have the advantage of being less expensive to operate because they can signal when they need to be emptied of change. On the downside, that’s fewer meter maids.

    I wonder if some of the delay comes from using the City’s wifi network? I’ve had problems with USI wireless as a consumer but I always assumed the city’s network ran more smoothly. Chicago, Indianapolis, and (I think) Milwaukee have the same brand of multi-space meter, but presumably wired – I’d be curious to know if they have the same delay.

    On a cranky note, Minnesotans are always afraid of new things (I almost wrote “change”). Obvious improvements like these meters are a great example – I’m sure my Grampa prefers carrying pocketfuls of change, but the rest of us can handle a few seconds of delay in exchange for being able to use a credit card.

  5. @Quinn, are you suggesting that there are downsides to government subsidized professional sports stadiums?

    @Alex, the execution seems to be hurting first impressions. That’s unfortunate. I definitely fall into the category of people who welcomes the change since I’ve avoided visiting businesses downtown due to a lack of quarters.

  6. Used the new meters for the first tome today. I thought it was pretty straight forward. Not at all understanding the interface issues people are having. Never used an ATM before? Disconcerting to put your card in before you know how much is going to be charges? It states explicitly how much it costs per hour. So, you know, math. $2 per hour, going to park for 4 hours. $8. Pretty straight forward. Can’t wait until we can make use of these in Saint Paul. Oh, and as for pricing for Twins games, thats called supply and demand. Don’t want to pay for parking? Take mass transit. Or park farther away and walk.

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