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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