Moving to digital meters
As digital "e-meters" take over downtown, time may be running short for Ann Arbor's mechanical meters. However, drivers who prefer the coin-powered clunkers shouldn't panic--yet. The DDA's Joe Morehouse explains that while about twenty-five meters were removed when the new Justice Center went up on the former City Hall parking lot, a few survived, and others have been added, mostly on residential streets near downtown. Currently, 1,603 coin meters and 621 solar-powered e-meters are in operation. Since each digital meter covers about five to eight spaces, though, many more drivers now press a keypad than turn a crank.
Morehouse acknowledges the city's received a few complaints about the e-meters, particularly from older people annoyed by the extra walking (and the irritating waits in line). One upside, he points out, is that drivers can add minutes to their e-parking space from any e-meter in the city--though he estimates that just 10-15 percent of users take advantage of the feature. The bigger convenience is that e-parkers can pay with credit cards or cash.
When the city retires mechanical meters, Morehouse says, it has no trouble selling them--sometimes to small towns just starting to charge for street parking.
The following Calls & letters item appeared in the February 2013 Ann Arbor Observer:
To the Observer:
January's Up Front featured a piece on the new parking meters ("Coin Power") that neglected to mention the biggest drawback to the solar-powered contraptions-they lack the ability to donate your unused time to the next driver. Old parking meters did the trick just fine. This was one of the good things about meter parking. Without any notice, the new meter expires when you leave the parking space-whether you have five or fifteen or fifty minutes left on the meter-resulting in a windfall for the city and or whoever else makes money on parking. On one or two occasions I have seen receipts taped to the space marker for the next driver to use, but this will not likely catch on unless everyone carries a roll of tape with them. Maybe the city should add tape dispensers to the pay stations.
[Originally published in January, 2013.]