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Government Transportation News

"Smart" Parking Meters Considered Dumb 863

theodp writes "The jury's still out on whether Chicago taxpayers were taken to the cleaners by a rushed 75-year lease of the city's metered parking to a Morgan Stanley consortium. But most would probably agree that the new shared Pay Boxes that replaced the city's old parking meters don't exactly live up to their 'Smart' billing. Here's what the redesigned 'user-friendly' parking solution looks like: 1. Park your car. 2. Walk up to 1/2 block to a Pay Box. 3. Wait in line to use it. 4. Use coins or credit cards to purchase parking time — up to $84 for 24-hours (add $50 if you run out of time). 5. Wait for a paper receipt to be printed. 6. Walk up to 1/2 block back to your car. 7. Place the receipt on your dashboard. 8. Head off to your destination, perhaps passing the Pay Box a second time. So before other cities suffer the same fate as Chicago, Portland, and others, is there a 'smarter' way? Some suggest the ParkMagic In-Car Meter, but no new orders are being taken in Chicago. Any other ideas?"
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"Smart" Parking Meters Considered Dumb

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  • already (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dukeofurl01 ( 236461 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:46PM (#29167793)

    Yay, first post!

    They have those things in Sacramento California also, they suck! I hate them! They're the worst!
    I heard in some cities though that they place sensors under the parking spots that reset the meter whenever somebody removes their car, as another way of making sure nobody gets any free time.

    • Re:already (Score:4, Interesting)

      by lastchance_000 ( 847415 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:31PM (#29168113)
      I'm in Sac also. It seems about half the time, the card readers fail, with an error message of, 'Transaction Declined'. I had to go to the next block to find one that would take my card, then walk a block back, so I could go into the office I had parked in front of.
      • Re:already (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:40PM (#29168181)

        Probably because the real reader was pried out and replaced with a card skimmer :)

      • and that is not a bad thing. Study after study has shown that by charging for parking you build in some the economic externalities into the cost of driving. think of it as a way to discourage congestion. it gives more people the opportunity to park downtown if people are discouraged from lingering. Sure you could charge more for gas or have fees to enter the city, or any number of things but this is easy to implement and has fewer side effects (as raising gas would). By making it difficult you pay with

        • by ottothecow ( 600101 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @01:09AM (#29169529) Homepage
          I always liked having meters as the cheap option though. I haven't had to park here (chicago) since the new meters started appearing but it used always work this way:

          People too poor for a ramp (read: college students me) could instead trade time for a spot. Sure, you might have to circle for 10 minutes and park further away but that meter might only cost you 25c for 15 minutes.

          I understand that more expensive parking puts the cost of driving more clearly on the driver but I don't like it. Ramps are already quite expensive and meters are hard to find so I like being able to spend my time instead of money (it still puts the cost on me...just in a way that I can handle). Also, a lot of the heaviest drivers don't use meters--they have monthly parking passes for work at a steep discount compared to hourly parking.

          I get that increasing the perceived cost driving will cut down on unessential car use but sometimes it is simply necessary. Necessary car use is what things like uhaul and zipcar (and igo car--the chicago only zipcar equivalent that I use sometimes) are for...whenever I am parking somewhere, you can rest assured that I *need* to be doing that driving because I am already paying out the ass for mileage on a uhaul or on the clock for my igo car...

          • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @03:17AM (#29170147) Journal

            I don't understand the modern viewpoint that cars are evil, and their usage should be discouraged. They are simply an update of the classic horse-and-cart that humans have used for 10,000 years, and the reason humans used these carts was because they were great for carrying lots of stuff.

            Don't believe me? Well I just bought almost a month's worth of groceries. Try carrying 20 bags onto the local subway or bus or walk home. I think I'll keep my horseless cart. Thanks.

            As to the point of the article - This is just more of the same politician stupidity that gave us hackable, error-prone computer voting (and eventually led to the return of paper ballots). Just because something is "new" doesn't mean it's better than the old system. The old mechanical meters invented in the 1920s may not be sexy, but they get the job done, and as this article demonstrates the new meters are not any better.

            An upgrade to new tech is only worthwhile if it's an actual UPgrade, rather than a downgrade.

            • by eiapoce ( 1049910 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @05:10AM (#29170665)

              Most people here seems to regard parking meters as normal and acceptable devices. Fact is that the SOIL is public. That means that the SOIL is YOURS. Now would you like to be charged for living into your house? I doubt it. So why can you accept that someone is renting your land? Here now you are debating which form of stealing is better for you. Like debating whatever is better to be eaten by a lion or a tiger.

              *LONDON CASE* - Just in case my points need proof. London is the best example that the government is not able to get public transport done in a decent way. Those who had the pleasure to visit London had the pleasure to witness the outcome of this resignation policy, where citizen don't question for a long time the actions of their governors.

              Tube: In london the tube is the most expensive [] public transport [] of the world. To eradicate privacy concerns you are told that you've got no privacy: the tube is covered with cameras. They are there just to easen your feelings of unsecurity and keeping souvenir videos of dead kamikaze bombers for later inspection.
              Congestion Charge: You can't use your car if you don't pay. Basically 16$ [] flat rate to get into the city. Cameras with number plate recognition software will note every car entering the charging zone. At the end of the day number plates will be cross referenced against a database of payments made -and don't forget to fuck privacy.
              Parking: Public parking in central london is practically non existant. Where it is available the rates are so high that made possible for a private parking industry [] to florish (usually 36$ per day, 3,60$ per hour). With the advent of decriminalised parking the practice is becoming much more widespread and as evidenced by the TV docu-soap 'Clampers', can be very arbitary: "clampers using threatening behaviour". Insane measures [] to clamp even bikes: Inside the Greater London area all footway parking is prohibited unless it is specifically exempted and signs indicate that you may park partially or wholly on the footway. -

              Conclusions: In london there is no other options but to be raped insane charges by local authorities. You take a bike, you can't park and risk clamps - You take a car you pay for using (congestion charge) and parking (if and when you find a spot) - You take the tube you are going to pay the most expensive transport system of the world AND you are still uncertain if you can reach your destination in time or whatever [] (It's like lotto, if you're lucky you get in time, if youre not lucky you're screwed since anything can happen, from detours to surface lines, delays or anything else - Also take for granted that when it happens you will find yourself dumped in parts of the city you never knew they existed before).

              • by Jared555 ( 874152 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @05:41AM (#29170829)

                Fact is that the SOIL is public. That means that the SOIL is YOURS. Now would you like to be charged for living into your house? I doubt it.

                Ever heard of property/real estate tax?

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  Fact is that the SOIL is public. That means that the SOIL is YOURS. Now would you like to be charged for living into your house? I doubt it.

                  Ever heard of property/real estate tax?

                  Every year I do. Technically, you never truly 'own' property. You do own the rights to the property, but it's never "yours" as in say "I paid for some clothes and they are mine forever to do with what I wish." So to keep the rights, you have to pay a tax to the real property owner, the Government. Don't think so, skip out on your property taxes enough and the Government will take it. And don't forget about Eminent domain. (aka compulsory purchase in the UK).

                  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @12:54PM (#29174693) Journal

                    >>>Technically, you never truly 'own' property.

                    Property tax was invented by the Progressives, who would probably call socialists in today's terminology. There was a problem where rich people were buying land, saving it, and then selling it for profit. That drove-up land prices and made it difficult for poor or middle income citizens to buy land. The progressives/socialists came-up with the idea of property tax.

                    Basically the property tax is supposed to offset any profit, and thereby discourage speculation. As with most good ideas, it was perverted and now it's become a way to turn citizens into the modern-day equivalent of serfs. You rent the land rather than own it.

                    The worst type of property tax is in Virginia where you pay a tax on your car. Why? A car's not property - it's an appliance; it depreciates rapidly. There's no valid reason to charge an annual tax/tribute on a depreciating hunk of metal, anymore than you'd pay property tax on a refrigerator or a stove or a television.

                    Greedy politicians.

              • by 16Chapel ( 998683 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @06:37AM (#29171087)
                Speaking as a Londoner -

                That's not true about biking - the biggest worry about having a bike in London is that it will get stolen / vandalised when you lock it up. It doesn't stop people though, there's a thriving bicycle scene here, and I call bullshit on the idea of bikes being clamped (the clamps wouldn't fit for a start).

                The tube is a pain in the arse - but that's mainly because when it was built they didn't think it necessary to put in 4 tunnels (like in NY), so they aren't able to maintain it properly (in NY they routinely shut down 2 tunnels to fix them, without having to shut down the whole line - in London they barely manage to keep the lines working in the 6 hours of down-time every night).

                Then there's the overland rail network, and the buses - they have their problems too but they do give you options (I take the bus into work, and my journey is consistently between 20 and 30 minutes, and I always get a seat).

                Anyone who drives in central London is crazy and / or masochistic, but what's new? It's been that way for ever, that's why I don't bother having a car. When I really need one I use a streetcar ( [] ), a service that pays the congestion charge anyway (and note that it's only the centre of the city that has the charge, and only during office hours).

                Then there's the DLR in East London, or the south London tram service - both examples of well-run, clean and effective public transport whose only downside is that they only service parts of the city.

                In regards to the article - if you're looking for a 'smart' meter, how about using your mobile phone: []

                Finally: "where citizen don't question for a long time the actions of their governors." - O RLY?
              • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Monday August 24, 2009 @07:14AM (#29171227)
                You're just being melodramatic.

                There are plenty of transport options of which you missed buses, local train services, crossrail, private coach operators, mopeds, motorcycles, electric/hybrid vehicles, taxis. Yes the tube is fairly expensive but public transport in London is still pretty good considering the load it works under.

                As for cars, screw cars. The congestion charge was introduced in because cars ground London to a standstill. For 95% of commuters there is no reason at all to drive in anyway since central London (where charging occurs) is very well supplied with tube and bus routes. If you absolutely must drive and don't want to pay the charge, you have plenty of other choices, including driving hybrids and electric vehicles which incur no charge.

                Does that mean London's transport system is perfect? Far from it but it works and works quite well aside from when the unions decide to go on strike.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              You, like most people miss the point of the new meters. They transfer the cost of use directly onto the driver. Where as the old meters had to be emptied and maintained by the thousands, these new meters can be emptied less often (more CC, less coin) and there are an order of magnitude less of them.

              The ones they installed in Portland even have a spiffy automated cart that empties them. The meter maids pull up in their special golf carts, and the machine does the rest. It's considerably cheaper for the
            • You can buy groceries instore or online and then get them delivered for free - both customers and supermarket benefit from the economies of scale achieved by this, as does transport infrastructure.

              People individually lugging shopping back is not a sensible model.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Hognoxious ( 631665 )

              Well I just bought almost a month's worth of groceries.

              Do you ever eat anything fresh? I'm surprised you don't get scurvy or something.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pwizard2 ( 920421 )

      another way of making sure nobody gets any free time.

      I wouldn't consider that to be free time, since somebody had to pay for it before you could benefit from it. It's not your problem if the guy before you overpaid, and there's no reason why you shouldn't benefit from it if you can. IMO, "Free" time would be putting quarter-sized sheet metal discs into a meter. (old machines would probably take it, not that I've tried or anything)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by KillerBob ( 217953 )

      They have those things in Sacramento California also, they suck! I hate them! They're the worst!
      I heard in some cities though that they place sensors under the parking spots that reset the meter whenever somebody removes their car, as another way of making sure nobody gets any free time.

      To be fair, the way TFS describes it is definitely not how it works in Montreal or any of the cities in Europe where I've used them.... The central reader has some kind of wifi/rfid in it, and they're all networked. You can

  • by scotts13 ( 1371443 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:46PM (#29167797)
    If only there was some sort of token people could use to activate the meters... But it would have to be something almost everyone carries. Hmmm...
    • by nEoN nOoDlE ( 27594 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:44PM (#29168213) Homepage

      Sorry, but everyone doesn't carry quarters. I, for instance, am one of those crazy people who sometimes doesn't carry any cash at all, let alone a dozen quarters rattling around in my pocket! Weird, huh? Well, I assure you, I am not alone, and parking machines that take credit cards are a godsend.

  • Forged Tickets? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:47PM (#29167803)
    If one were to forge the ticket (which can not be examined closely while under the dash glass...), I wonder how often the meter readers would actually check the machine data or ticket number/serial?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by alen ( 225700 )

      NYC they have wireless auto ticket printers. they'll just scan your registration and print a ticket in a few minutes and let you go to court to sort it out

  • They could be smart (at least, smarter than traditional ones), but placement, cost, procedure, etc are human (like the ones that decided where they must go, numbers, etc).
  • Number each spot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by C3ntaur ( 642283 ) <centaur@netmaPLA ... minus physicist> on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:47PM (#29167809) Journal
    Then have the customer enter the spot number they parked in at the pay box. No return trip, no silly paper receipt to put on the dash board, no worries. Was that so hard?
    • by coryking ( 104614 ) * on Sunday August 23, 2009 @10:00PM (#29168331) Homepage Journal

      And painted lines are either too small to parallel park your stupid Hummer, or a massive waste of space to park a smart car. Without lines, you can squeeze more cars into a block because people get right on each others ass--which is the way it should be. Everybody should get on each others ass, that way there is no wasted space.

      Put in lines, and you waste an assload of space so some idiot can parallel park his boat-car.

      No thanks. I'll keep my city streets free of painted lines and if they become painted, I (and most of my neighbors) will take the suggestion, but if there is enough space, we'll happily park our cars between the lines. After all, when it takes 15 or 25 minutes to find a space, if my car can fit, I'm parking it--fuck your lines.

      PS: nothing makes me smile more than grown men who need their wife/girlfriend/friend to get out and guide them into *giant* spot. Buddy, I can park your car so there is only two inches between the guy in front and the guy behind and do it without tapping either bumper. It takes a while, but as I said, when you look for 25 minutes to find a spot--if I even think I can fit, fuck it, I'm going in!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Taibhsear ( 1286214 )

        nothing makes me smile more than grown men who need their wife/girlfriend/friend to get out and guide them into *giant* spot. Buddy, ... there is only two inches between the guy in front and the guy behind and do it without tapping either bumper. It takes a while, but as I said, when you look for 25 minutes to find a spot--if I even think I can fit, fuck it, I'm going in!

        Funny how you can omit a few words and it takes an entirely different context...

  • Race Condition? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:47PM (#29167811)

    What happens if parking enforcement comes around while you're in the middle of the walk-wait-pay-walk process?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:16PM (#29167991)

      They fine you if you're black

      oh wait

    • Re:Race Condition? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:18PM (#29168009) Homepage

      Well, you'll get a ticket.

      "You were on your way to pay for your space, were you? Sure, we get that all the time. You can take it up with the court in a few weeks. Mind that you remember to pay your parking next time."

      Why should they change anything? The goal is to make money, and that's exactly what this will be doing.

    • Re:Race Condition? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dword ( 735428 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:23PM (#29168049)

      AFAIK, it's considered parking if it takes longer than 5 minutes. At least in my country: If you stop the car, it's considered a stop. If you keep it in the same place for more than 5 minutes, it's considered a halt and if you halt in a parking place, it's considered parking. We have the same situation here, you have to buy tickets and put them in your window and if the police wants to prove you've parked, they have to have at least 5 minutes of footage of your car not moving while other things are moving around it. The question is: what do you do if it takes you more than 5 minutes? Now, in that case, you can object by proving that you didn't have enough time and you should win the case and that would get you rid of the fine... so the actual question is: who pays you for the time you spent proving you were innocent? The classic question in democracy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      In Portland, they have one meter on the face of each block with parking. At worst, you have to cross the street or go around a corner, if the one meter on your face is broken. So odds are, you'll be able to see the parking enforcement person walking to your car, and yell "I'm at the pay-station!" (I've done that once, and it was a case where the meter on the side I was on was out-of-order, so I was on the other side of the street.) In parking in downtown Portland metered spaces a couple hundred times si

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:49PM (#29167817)

    Robot Parking Garage []

    You can build them upwards, you can build them downwards. They take up so much less space than sidewalk parking. Properly designed, they can park and retrieve vehicles really freaking fast.

  • Bad idea in general (Score:4, Informative)

    by spcmastertim ( 782657 ) <> on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:50PM (#29167829) Journal
    This reminds me of the Gwinnette County traffic camera deal in Georgia where a private company took over a public service and it goes to heck. Granted the camera deal included a kickback from every ticket, so the company exploited the system to issue more tickets, but still... ideas like this should be brought before the public before implementation so that these problems have a chance to be thought through. Let me step down from the soapbox...
  • Old Style Meters (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Byron II ( 671689 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:53PM (#29167851)
    The old meters worked just fine!!

    Also, the new meters could have worked, but the out-sourcing to a private company destroyed any hope of that.

    An example of their ineptitude: they forgot to put batteries in some of the meters, making it impossible to get the magic slip of paper, and then ticketed people for it.

  • Decent system (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mojo01010011 ( 1337759 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:54PM (#29167857) Journal
    We have a pretty decent system in Calgary. The pay boxes are easily found downtown, and the payment is linked to your license plate so you don't need to go back to your car. Also payment via cellphone is available. All in all I like the new system compared to the old time meters.
  • Jury Isn't Out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trillian_1138 ( 221423 ) <slashdot@frida[ ] ['yth' in gap]> on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:55PM (#29167869)
    Ask anyone in Chicago who isn't on Daley's payroll, and they can tell you that the jury is not out on the parking meters: Daley, once again, did whatever the fuck he wanted and the residents, once again, were screwed over.
  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:56PM (#29167879)

    old style meters if you park at one with time left over then the city "lost" money

    new meters when you park unless someone gives you a ticket with time on it you have to pay even if the person before you didn't use all their time

  • by qbzzt ( 11136 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:57PM (#29167883)

    The parking meters described are user hostile to the population of Chicago. However, they do a much better job of keeping the life of the organization that bought them and runs them easy than having to physically collect coins from so many different parking meters.

    The government is not the people.

    • by Heir Of The Mess ( 939658 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @10:30PM (#29168535)

      In Taiwan it appears driver friendly rather than operator friendly. People just park and leave, then a parking inspector would come round every 30 minutes or something, take a photo of their number plate with a device, and leave a waterproof ticket on their windshield. Each time the inspector comes round he or she leaves more tickets on each windshield. When the driver comes back they get all the tickets and pay them at the nearest 7-11. I assume you have a certain grace period to pay the tickets.

  • by ugen ( 93902 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:58PM (#29167899)

    I've seen this in multitude of places world wide. Not so popular in US but exists here and there. What exactly is their problem? Walking half a block extra? I knew people in Chicago were some of the least fit in the country but this sounds like extreme whining. Would they prefer to walk back from wherever they are every hour to "feed the meter"? Or do they want a system that lets them pay without leaving the car? That's called a parking garage :)

    • by StormReaver ( 59959 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:23PM (#29168047)

      The whole idea of a smart meter is (or should be) efficiency. It should be efficient for the municipality to collect fees, and it should be efficient for the user to use. That seems pretty self-evident to me. To that end, it is completely reasonable to expect a system that lets you pay electronically at the meter itself. Having to go out of your way an extra block, especially if you're planning on going the other direction, is completely unreasonable. And It has nothing to with fitness. It has everything to do with wasting time that you shouldn't have to spend to begin with. Smart meters should make the process better, not worse.

      • by coryking ( 104614 ) * on Sunday August 23, 2009 @10:07PM (#29168387) Homepage Journal


        It has everything to do with wasting time that you shouldn't have to spend to begin with.

        Really? Your life is so busy that you can't waste the minute or so it takes to walk *half a block out of your way*?

        And It has nothing to with fitness.

        Actually, it does. No wonder people in this country are such fat-asses. They complain about walking half a damn block and try to rationalize it as "wasting time". Buddy... enjoy your life. If you live your life by such a hectic schedule, it won't be the obesity that does you in, it will be your little ticker deciding it doesn't like all this stress you are putting on it and subsequently deciding to malfunction--aka a heart attack.

        Sheesh. One half block.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Just because I happen to have extra time in my day doesn't mean I want to spend it on somebody's badly-designed parking meter system. You can't defend a bad concept with 'but the exercise will do you good'. Maybe it will, but it doesn't change the fact that it's still a bad concept. The new system is less convenient for people than the old system, and considering the technical advantages available today compared to when the old system was designed, that is pretty sad.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by raju1kabir ( 251972 )

        Having to go out of your way an extra block, especially if you're planning on going the other direction, is completely unreasonable.

        Walking half a block is a one-minute round trip. If you honestly don't have that much time on your hands, you might as well just double-park in front of the door at the organ transplant centre and worry about the tow later.

  • The System (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @08:59PM (#29167913) Homepage

    The system isn't made to be fair. It's made to generate revenue. If more revenue can be generated by making you walk half of a block, hell, even an entire block, why not two, then it's going to be that way. The city has no vested interest in making things easier for its inhabitants if making things easier nets them less revenue.

    Especially when you throw in a kickback or bribe to certain members that have the power to vote on these things...

    It's all about corruption. Why replace perfectly good parking meters with a convoluted new system that will ensure that people get fined or at least ripped off on the price? Because it generates more money. Not because it's safer, or an improvement, or healthier, etc.

    • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:41PM (#29168189) Journal

      The whole point of meters was to encourage people to be quick and move on, freeing up parking so others can patronize the same businesses. That's why there are time limits and feeding the meter is illegal in many places, even if you own the car.

      Perhaps instead it's time to rethink the whole concept of meters and find a better way to accomplish the task. Preferably one which leaves as few hazards in a too-narrow roadway as it is. Something like.. valet parking, satellite lots, underground parking (I understand this has been very successful in Boston, for instance), mass transit, etc.

      It is clear to anyone with more sense than a turnip that individual transportation machines is not a solution that scales well. But it's tricky because it's not enough to have the bandwidth, a viable "public transportation" option needs to have equivalent or better latency, too.

    • Re:The System (Score:5, Interesting)

      by strength_of_10_men ( 967050 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:50PM (#29168257)

      My city started installing this system and I thought it was inefficient but could be more convenient in some circumstances.

      However, I talked to one of the parking enforcement people and it was eye opening. They now know exactly when a meter expires via a wireless link from the smart meter to a handheld device. No need to walk past every meter now. They can just get a reading of which spot is expired and if a car is in that spot.

      It's just a giant money grab by the city under the guise of "smart" technology. It's smart alright - smart for the city.

  • Park Plus (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jpmorgan ( 517966 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:00PM (#29167921) Homepage
    Here in Calgary there's a similar system called Park Plus. If you park downtown you have to find one of the park plus machines (they're not very hard to find, they're all over the place), and punch in your license plate # and a 4 digit code indicating where you're parked (those are on signs all over the place too). There's no receipt or parking pass though. The system is enforced by a set of trucks covered in cameras and antennas. I presume they automatically scan the license plate of every parked car and check against the central system whether you've paid or not. What's pretty cool about it is you can also setup a debit account with the system, and then pay through your cell phone- call the system once when you park to 'check in' and again when you leave to 'check out' and it deducts the payment from your account.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rayban ( 13436 )

      Yep, I've used Park Plus here in Calgary and I think it's great. It's convenient for first time users (walk to any Park Plus box, enter your license plate and leave). For more frequent users, the mobile version is even easier.

      Being able to pay only for the parking time you need is fantastic.

  • by shirai ( 42309 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:06PM (#29167941) Homepage

    The system works pretty well in Vancouver, Canada.

    You can use coins as normal or you can dial a phone number to pay by credit card. Each meter has a number used to identify it.

    The first time you use it, you have to register a license and your credit card number. After that, it remembers it based on your caller id I would imagine. You can register multiple cars no problem. It's a bit of a pain enter your license the first time you use it (it would be nice if you could try to use voice recognition first) but after the first time, it's pretty smooth.

    The nice thing is that you don't have to go back to your car when you run out of time. To me, that is the biggest pain of street parking. Forget that you have to go half a block to pay for parking. If you have to run back from a few blocks, or in the middle of eating, that is even worse. With the system, we just call the number again and it asks if you want to extend your time. You just enter how many minutes.

    I usually use it like this: (a) put in as many coins as I have and take a picture of the meter which has the id number with my iPhone (b) if I'm not back by the amount of time I got from the coins, I call and add time.

  • by kabloom ( 755503 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:10PM (#29167971) Homepage

    The ParkMagic in-car meter is a scam on the part of the city to steal your paid-for parking time from you. (To be fair, the new smart meters a half a block away from you are probably a scam too). It used to be that if you had extra time on the meter, someone else could park there for the extra time and save themselves money. Considering that if someone else left with extra time you could park in their spot and take advantage of the free time, over the long run it would tend to average out that you were only paying for the actual time you spent parked in your spot.

    Now with the new changes, nobody else can take advantage of leftover time on your meter when you leave, and you can't get any kind of refund. So all of the extra time that people pay for -- the city's getting their money for free.

  • by johncandale ( 1430587 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:14PM (#29167983)
    Please. How is this any different then metered parking with a meter at every space except you have to walk /up to/ half a block. Oh noes! Note most of the time you'll be walking much less then half a block statistically. Plus these take credit cards and cash. No more worries about carring around useless change in your car for the meter. It would be too expesinve and silly to place a machine that takes credit cards and cash at every space, not to mention expensive to maintain and empty.

    Everyone says they want cities to stop over spending on infrastructure and to have realistic services but every time they inconvenience you just a little bit it's back to "spend spend spend! I can't walk half a block!"

  • by Trogre ( 513942 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:20PM (#29168017) Homepage

    Similar installations have been deployed where I live, and have already had one major benefit:

    Fewer people are taking cars in to town.

    Though I'm not sure the local retailers share my enthusiasm on that one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:22PM (#29168041)

    I'm a Portland resident and have been in constant contact with these meters since they were installed a few years back. Seriously, they are not that bad! I don't know why there is even a debate about them. They are reasonably dispersed in Portland, so the "have to walk" argument does not apply. The price is about what you would expect for street parking... And anybody stupid enough to be street parking for 24 hours deserves the cost. You need overnight? Try a garage. Much cheaper.

    So far, no drawbacks. Plus you can use a credit/debit card. I was thrilled when these went in here in Portland, and I haven't changed my mind yet.

    Can somebody please give a solid answer as to why these meters are a problem?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The Three R's of Portland
      Why Portland Sucks

      "Latte Town" was coined a few years back and is the most appropriate term for the City of Portland that I have ever heard. A Latte town consists of mostly white, educated baby boomers and young single people. The inhabitants of the town are usually newcomers who have priced out all the original inhabitants. These towns are usually expensive, pretentious, abound in natural fibers and are laid back on the surface. Latte towns like Portland pride themselves on their

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      1> I resent paying four times more for parking than I did last year. 2> I resent having to go out of my way to feed the new system, a couple months ago I didn't have to. 3> What garages friend? Those are mostly many miles away, down town. 4> And generally, any system put into place by Daley and his cronies is a sweetheart deal to rape the taxpayer. Fuck Richard Daley, his secret deals and his midnight bulldozers.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dirtside ( 91468 )

      Can somebody please give a solid answer as to why these meters are a problem?

      I haven't looked into the details of the Chicago or Portland meters, but... there's more than one company that makes these meters, and maybe the Portland ones are good and the Chicago ones suck? Or maybe the Chicago ones are too sparse and the Portland ones are placed frequently enough?

  • scratch-off cards (Score:5, Interesting)

    by redfood ( 471234 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:24PM (#29168051)
    In a number of cities in Israel you purchase scratch-off cards in connivence-stores. When you want to park you scratch the date/time off the card (to "activate" it) and hang it in your window. I think its pretty brilliant. No physical infrastructure to maintain. To money/coins to collect. If the city wants to change the price of parking - they just change it. No machines to update.
  • by BitHive ( 578094 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:34PM (#29168131) Homepage

    1. Park your car.
    2. Walk up to 1/2 block to store entrance.
    3. Wait in line to enter and obtain a cart.
    4. Pass the checkout counters and walk the equivalent of two or three blocks inside the stoor while manually loading groceries.
    5. Wait in line to pay using coins or credit cards.
    6. Wait for a paper receipt to be printed.
    7. Walk up to 1/2 block back to your car.
    8. Place the groceries in the car.
    9. Head off to your destination.
    10. Carry groceries inside destination.
    11. Store groceries in various locations depending on consumability and shelf life at room temperature.

    Embarassingly, it is already like this in Portland, Chicago and other cities worldwide.

  • So what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by painandgreed ( 692585 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:41PM (#29168191)

    Whining about walking half a block. No wonder that not only does everybody think Americans are fat and lazy but that we really are. Come on, it's just a few parking spots well within sight of your car. If you have trouble walking that far and back, you really have no business even leaving your assisted care facility that you must live in.

    Anyway, Seattle has the same ones that Portland has and they're great. Get a sticker to put on your car that can be paid with a card if you don't have tons of change. Works for the time you buy anywhere in the city. I can buy one sticker and be good for an afternoon of running errands. If the meter by my car is broke, I can just walk to the next one and still pay. (Jesus, an around the corner walk must make it not worth leaving the house for TFA poster. I can only wonder how they always manage to get a parking spot in front of where they want to go.)

    If I was to bitch about such things, it would be because in Seattle, now that they've replaced all the old parking meters (which were usually broken and misread the time time elapsed anyway), they've started putting them in all the places that used to be free parking. It's getting harder and harder to find a spot thats not metered. Since I live in the older part of town (Capitol Hill) near downtown, street parking near my apartment which was hard enough to come by in a neighborhood where lots of buildings predate the common use of the car is now disappearing all together.

  • Ridiculous! (Score:5, Funny)

    by monkeySauce ( 562927 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:42PM (#29168193) Journal

    6. Walk up to 1/2 block back to your car.

    Oh my god. I dropped my cheesy fries, ice cream and XXL soda and almost had a heart attack just thinking about walking up to half a block! Please resuscitate me when somebody comes up with a drive-through parking meter payment system.

  • Worse than that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GeorgeH ( 5469 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @09:57PM (#29168317) Homepage Journal

    In Ann Arbor, the "smart" meters are susceptible to an exploit where if you add 5 cents of time to a meter, you remove all the existing time on that meter. For $1, a prankster can reset 20 parking spots and watch everyone get parking tickets. More info at this screenshot of a now-deleted comment [] on

  • I like them.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by chrispycreeme ( 550607 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @10:08PM (#29168389)

    They work great in Portland Oregon. I don't mind walking a little ways and I can move to another spot and keep my time. The only thing I don't like about them is that they don't take dollar bills, only coins and cards.

  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Sunday August 23, 2009 @10:43PM (#29168595)
    It seems that someone finally found a way to get lazy, fat ass Americans to actually walk ONE block per day once in a while... ;)
  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <> on Monday August 24, 2009 @01:20AM (#29169593) Journal

    Parking meters in Montréal are being replaced by smart Linux wireless solar-powered boxes []. The whole of downtown is done by now.

    To use them [], you just need to note the parking spot number, then walk to the nearby pay station in which you key-in the spot number and pay (they take credit and bank cards) for the duration you plan to park. You get a receipt which you don’t need to put on your dashboard; the parking spot and duration is sent to a central server.

    Parking enforcement agents (the legendary “ green onions []”) then are told by a hand-held computer which spots haven't been paid or are expired when they do their rounds. The computer only needs to be told the license plate number, and it prints the whole parking ticket automagically without subjecting the green onion to the risk of writer’s cramp (unfortunately, he still has to get out of his car and put it under the wipers).

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.