Pay-and-display could be coming downtown

Pay-and-display station in San Francisco

Pay-and-display station in San Francisco

The San Antonio City Council this Thursday will consider whether to approve a plan to replace most downtown parking meters with so-called “pay-and-display” systems.¬† (UPDATE: Council approved the plan¬†during its 3/4/10 meeting.)¬† These systems, which originated in Europe and have become popular in US cities over the past decade, consist of a payment¬†machine (“pay station”)¬†located on each block, such as the one pictured to the right.¬† After parking your vehicle, you locate the nearest pay station, pay for the time you want to park, get a receipt from the machine, then return to your vehicle and place the receipt on your dashboard.¬† The drawback to this system, of course, is that you have to walk to the machine (which typically is located mid-block), pay, then return to your vehicle¬†to put the receipt on the dashboard.¬† The benefits, however,¬†are that the machines accept credit/debit cards and dollar bills, so no more having to scrounge for loose change.¬† Also, motorists can move their vehicle if desired without having to “feed” another meter.¬† The City is the biggest benefactor in the form of reduced maintenance costs and collection overhead for thousands of parking meters;¬†remote maintenance of the machines via wireless connections;¬†and enhanced revenue, likely the result of more people opting to pay since they can use credit cards and bills.¬† Also, unlike with parking meters where¬†any¬†remaining time is inherently donated to the next person who parks in the space,¬†leftover time under pay-and-display systems¬†is essentially forfeited to the City.¬† Studies generally show that parking violations are reduced under pay-and-display systems, so the City would lose some revenue from parking tickets, but can, as a result, reallocate those enforcement resources to other areas.

Under the proposed plan, the City would purchase 134¬†solar-powered pay stations¬†from US-based Parkeon, Inc., by entering into an agreement with the City of Seattle to use their existing competitive contract with the company, thus allowing¬†San Antonio¬†to get a better deal.¬† Assuming Council approval, the first¬†machines would be installed beginning in May, with installation of all 134¬†of them¬†completed by July.¬† The plan is to replace meters in the busiest areas; meters in outlying areas may be replaced in a future expansion.¬† In addition, the system will be installed in “pay-by-space” mode in eight City-owned surface lots.¬† In that mode, users enter their parking space number into the machine when paying.¬† Because the space number is recorded in the transaction, the user does not have to return and¬†place the receipt in the vehicle.

The impetus for this program was a 2006 pilot project and a 2008 parking¬†study that both determined pay-and-display to be an improvement over the existing conventional parking meters.¬† The project is estimated to cost about $1.5 million and will come from the City’s parking repair fund.¬† An educational campaign is planned¬†to help the public learn how to use the system

The City currently has about 2,100 parking meters downtown.

For a map of the proposed locations, click here.


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