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VOL. 128 | NO. 220 | Monday, November 11, 2013

New Parking Meters Ready for Debut

By Bill Dries

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After years of talking about new parking meters and more aggressive enforcement of the Downtown and Medical Center on-street parking governed by the meters, city leaders thought it best to bring out the new meters as proof that the change is actually about to happen.

Memphis City Engineer John Cameron demonstrates new parking meters that begin being placed around Downtown and the Medical District this week.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

So city engineer John Cameron stood last week flanked by one of the new single-parking space meters that city crews begin installing this week and one of the kiosks to be installed and operational by the first week of December that motorists will use to pay for multiple parking spaces.

“We had to order new parking meters anyway,” Cameron began as he explained in detail how the new meters work and the old ones no longer do to Memphis City Council members and then again at a press conference in the lobby of City Hall.

The $1.6 million project is a five-year lease-purchase agreement between the city and the Parkeon and IPS companies who will manage and maintain the technology for the city.

The 485 single-space parking meters will start to become operational this week as they are installed by city crews. There also will be 135 multiple-space kiosks installed.

Both types of meters are battery powered and the batteries are recharged from solar panels on them that will affect how they are positioned.

Meanwhile, initial city plans to extend the hours of enforcement for the parking meters won’t be a part of the changes. Parking in a metered spot is still free after 6 p.m. on weekdays, at least for now.

The meters for individual spaces allow someone pulling into that space to see how much time is left on the meter.

But that’s not possible in the multiple spaces covered by a kiosk.

Those using the kiosks also have to remember to take the receipt they get and put it on the passenger side of their dashboards for those checking the meters to see.

For the first two to three weeks of the transition to the new multi-space kiosks, city employees will be stationed at them to help those parking use them correctly.

“It’s a little bit of a change,” Cameron said of the system that New York City has been using for 15 years and which other major cities have also adopted.

Both types of meters allow motorists to use credit or debit cards. Those parking have to buy at least a half hour of parking time at 50 cents for the half hour and $1 for an hour. The maximum time a motorist can buy could be adjusted if city leaders want a higher turnover in parking places. The rates are set by city ordinance.

“We’re trying to get folks in the mode of paying for parking,” Cameron said.

The city will have “occasional enforcement” after 5 p.m. weekdays, he added. Technicians in the engineer’s office who write tickets will rotate on shifts that go later than their 4:30 p.m. quitting time and Memphis police also enforce the parking meter hours.

The new meters come with some growth in the number of metered parking spaces. There will be 300 new on-street metered parking spaces, according to Cameron – most of them north of Poplar Avenue in the Uptown area.

Memphis City Council member Bill Boyd asked Cameron if “any of these meters are subject to catching fire,” a reference to claims about utility Smart Meters made by fellow council member Janis Fullilove, who was sitting across from Boyd when he asked the question.

Fullilove didn’t respond to the remark as Cameron said there have been no fires and problems with other parking meters.

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