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Changing times call for the elimination of ‘change’ with parking meters

By ZACH OLSON
DCN Correspondent

The sound of a sharp, loud ring pierces your ear. It’s time to get up and begin your day. Groggily rolling over, you hit the snooze button to allow yourself to get a few more precious minutes of much needed rest. Before you know it, you instinctively force yourself from your peaceful sleep and realize that you’re running late... again. After quickly throwing on the first visible items of clothing, you give your teeth a once over and head for the door.

When you finally reach your destination, you pull into the closest parking space only to realize that if you plan on leaving your vehicle here, you better plan on feeding the meter.

Frantically you tear through your vehicle and pockets in hopes of finding some change. Finally, you come to the realization that this is taking too much time and it’s a losing battle. You have two options: risk getting a ticket by ignoring the meter or just call it quits and retreat home or to another distant parking place that isn’t metered.

You had come so close, but a couple of quarters stood in the way of your mission of punctuality.

This problem of a lack of spare change, which could result in the accumulation of parking violations, affects people on a daily basis and has become more difficult to deal with in Duluth.

The city recently made some changes in regards to its parking meters located in the downtown area.
In an article written in a 2008 Duluth News Tribune article, the city council approved an increase in meter fees. The article says that in previous years, 25 cents would buy 30 minutes for a parking space. With the new increase, 25 cents only buys 20 minutes of time now.

UMD Parking Area Supervisor Cheryl Love says one way to alleviate the problem would be the construction of parking ramps, but because of space and cost she thinks it would be difficult for this as a solution. Love did, however, say that an electronic alternative is completely feasible and have already begun to be utilized.

Change came in Davenport, Iowa, in the winter of 2006. To notify the community of the upcoming change, the city made a news release introducing the Smart Card. The card was designed to be simple, by just sliding it into the meter, money would be taken out of a parking account (that would need to be set up during the purchase of the card).

Along with Iowa, other parts of the U.S began experimentation with their meters.

Decatur, Ga., recently began to use an electronic form of payment at the meter. According to an article published this past November from the PR Newswire, the city began experimenting with SmartMeters.

StreetSmart is the company that is introducing these new meters. The process requires very little work. To begin, people call an automated line and decide how much time they want to put on their meter. Once this is done, they choose whether they want to pay with a credit/debit card. The entire process happens over the phone and live operators are also available in addition to the automated line.

These two cities are just a couple of examples of the evolution of parking meters in today’s society. But this trend is not confined to the U.S. In an article posted on the British Broadcasting Corporation, cities worldwide, like London, have also transitioned to the pay over the phone method.

Over time, other cities and communities may experiment and adopt some of these new electronic forms of payments, but change takes time; therefore, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep collecting change. Who knows, someday you may be running late and having just a few dimes, nickels and quarters may help secure a prime parking spot.