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.

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