Tuesday, November 9, 2010

DC Parking Meters Go Solar

I guess it's progress when DC improves its parking meters. Much as we mutter bad words under our breath about parking in the District of Columbia, the following is also true:

1. We hate broken meters because they make us wonder, "Will I get a ticket anyway?"
2. We hate people who park at broken meters all day because they take away a space we might have parked in. (Partially contradicts item #1 above, but nobody ever said parking invoked rational thought.)
3. Parking is as bad or worse in other cities.

Here's the news: The DC Department of Transportation has begun installing 1,150 new solar-powered, single-space meters that accept credit cards as well as coins.

According to DDOT's director, Gabe Klein, "The new meters are also a piece of a comprehensive Intelligent Transportation System architecture that that will tie together all of our assets with adaptive controls that change dynamically, and provide real time information to the public, and DDOT. From our signal system, to the Circulator Bus, to the parking system, all proactively communicating.  Did we mention no more quarters?”

The geek inside me loves it when DDOT talks that way.

The meters are the first in a number of parking programs that DDOT will be rolling out over the next few months to provide more efficient and convenient parking systems for residents and visitors to the city.  DDOT has been running a number of different pilots to test the latest technology throughout the year beginning in January, including pay-by-phone, in-car metering, and occupancy sensors.  The solar-powered, single-space, credit card accepting meter was the first of the parking pilots.  DDOT is scheduled to roll out citywide the in-car metering system as well as the pay-by-cell program in the near future.

The new single-space meters are scheduled to be installed in a number of areas in northwest and southwest DC.

The machines accept Visa or Master Card, credit or debit, as well as coins, including dollars, quarters, dimes and nickels. In addition, the “smart” meters alert DDOT and the contractor via text message or email if the meter is malfunctioning.  So here's the fun part: The more expensive parking becomes in DC, the more frequent flyer miles you can earn by charging your parking to your rewards credit card.

Here's how the new meters work: For coin operation simply insert coins like any ordinary meter. For credit card operation:  1) insert and then remove credit card 2) choose the amount of time requested by using the blue buttons 3) confirm acceptance or cancel 4) wait for verification and then enjoy your space.

DDOT is confident many of these new parking meter solutions will provide 1) better return on the tax payer's investment 2) a variety of options 3) reduced maintenance 4) a variety of easy payment options and 5) increased reliability.

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