Tuesday, July 2, 2013

High tech parking meters will come at a slow methodical pace

Downtown parking meters won't look like this.

Downtown parking meters won’t look like this.

Before progress can be made on metered on-street parking managed by a private business the General Assembly will have to give Roanoke City permission. A locality with a population under 100,000 must get the GA’s OK. That won’t happen until the 2014 session.

Assistant Manager Brian Townsend said they have already finished two phases of the downtown parking strategy that has created 32 new parking spaces. The Bullitt Avenue closing has eliminated 27 spaces to make way for the Elmwood Park Art Walk.

There has been progress in standardizing time limits, eliminating some loading zones and permitting unrestricted time limits where warranted in two of the four outlying perimeter areas.

The core downtown area will be last to be completed sometime in the spring of 2014. All changes will be revisited for utilization through the end of 2014.

The new parking meter technology uses credit cards and iPhones. “We have a lot to catch up on because it is new to our finance department and new to our parking division,” said Townsend. An RFI (Request for Information) will go out for automated parking managers after approval by the state.

Next will be identification of a pilot area where there is the highest on-street parking demand. Most likely that will be in the market area said Townsend. It would either be parking meters, pay to display where a person would go put money in and return with a ticket or possibly license plate recognition technology. “It is a lot of technology where we need to become smarter on before we can come back to council to make a recommendation,” said Townsend.

“It’s too early for us yet to know the cost involved, the things we would have to do and the acceptance of the general public.”

Exploration is the first step before an RFP can go out to vendors. City code would have to be amended to support a pilot project. “It will take us a while to go through this,” he said.

Debbie Moses, Parking Coordinator is working on an integrated system, outreach and collaboration. “We have parking that is available and reasonable” is the message to citizens.

In March Townsend said they are still looking for a vendor who would offer them meters free to trial. The goal in all the changes is to facilitate turnover.

The whole idea of providing on-street meters is to offer options to either pay on-street or use the parking garage. “We have to make sure whatever on-street system we have makes sense with the garage system – on-street being more convenient will cost more,” said Townsend.

Townsend said they are evaluating the kind of parking meter that would work best. Solar powered meters would work as a powering mechanism. “The real key is to find one that people can understand – the biggest thing we are hearing from people is that we want something we can swipe.”

The new technologically designed parking meters don’t come cheap depending on the options selected. They can be solar powered, accommodate money, credit, debit, prepaid cards and even payment through a Smartphone.

Townsend said the meters would not be money makers. A trial will determine the public’s acceptance. He felt that the core Central Business District would support meters but the study will determine whether going beyond that would be feasible.

In December 2012 Thomas Brown, Senior Associate with the New York transportation planning firm Nelson\Nygaard and others from Nelson-Nygard came to Roanoke for two days and took a look at the parking situation in downtown. They conducted a workshop with Roanoke City staff and downtown businesses and property owners.

Brown’s December presentation to council suggested the improvements for downtown Roanoke’s parking inconsistencies and recommended the new high tech parking meters. The cost for the meters depends on the options and bulk purchase. At a minimum they would start at a couple hundred dollars each not counting a network system that would accommodate card swiping and Smartphone communications.

Expect downtown parking changes and parking meters March 2013

“Pay to Stay” approach floated for downtown parking December 2012

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Politics, Roanoke City Politics

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