Parking Meters Get Smarter

August 1st, 2005

Here’s an interesting (and free) story from the WSJ on what parking meters can do with a little awareness and a few brain cells. Some of the ideas are quite chilling. It’s nature, red in tooth and claw and it’s clear who is the predator and who is the prey. There’s a nice graphical overview, too.

Parking Meters Get Smarter
Wireless Technology Turns Old-Fashioned Coin-Operated Device Into a Sophisticated Tool for Catching Scofflaws and Raising Cash
By Christopher Conkey, Staff Reporter of The Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2005; Page B1

Technology is taking much of the fun out of finding a place to park the car.

In Pacific Grove, Calif., parking meters know when a car pulls out of the spot and quickly reset to zero — eliminating drivers’ little joy of parking for free on someone else’s quarters.

In Montreal, when cars stay past their time limit, meters send real-time alerts to an enforcement officer’s hand-held device, reducing the number of people needed to monitor parking spaces — not to mention drivers’ chances of getting away with violations. Meanwhile, in Aspen, Colo., wireless “in-car” meters may eliminate the need for curbside parking meters altogether: They dangle from the rear-view mirror inside the car, ticking off prepaid time.

Coral Gables, Fla., recently became one of the first U.S. cities where drivers can buy parking time using their cellphones. After registering a phone number, credit card and license-plate number online with Mint Technology Corp., of Toronto, motorists park, dial 1-888-PAY-MINT and then enter the lot number to start their “parking session.” In addition to the parking fee, Mint charges drivers a 25-cent surcharge for the service, or $7 a month for unlimited sessions.

Pacific Grove, Calif., took a different tack. The city got so fed up with tourists leaving cars in its zoned spaces all day while visiting the aquarium in neighboring Monterey that in December it installed meters with a progressive-rate schedule, leased from InnovaPark LLC of Westport, Conn. Some meters on short-term spaces can be programmed to reject quarters after 20 minutes. Others charge $1 for the first hour and then increase to as much as $4 for the third hour. Meters reset to zero as soon as a car pulls out. …