Smarter meters popping up downtown

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Our phones have gotten smart. Our cars have become smarter. And now, for better or worse, parking meters are growing some smarts. San Diego city government has begun a project this week to replace almost all of the current, old-fashion coin-only parking meters with smart meters. The smarts in the meters is used to process credit cards for payment and track and communicate usage statistics for the parking space.

Initially nearly 200 new meters will be installed in the Gaslamp Quarter, downtown. The new devices will make use of the already-standing poles after the old meters are removed. After the first round of meters go in, more will follow in the Uptown and Mid-City districts of the city, until all of the nearly 5,000 coin operated meters are replaced.

Following the completion of the first phase of meter upgrades, early in 2015, even more advanced (i.e. smarter) meters are planned which will  accept payment via smart phones, will text users when their time is about to expire, and will be tied in to an app that will find open spaces while driving to a location.

smartmeters1A portion of the first wave of smart meters will actually refund any unused part of the fee paid if the car leaves the space with time still left on the meter. The machine will then clear the time off itself, so that the next person parking there will need to pay the full amount, unless they also leave early. Information gained from the meters monitoring of space usage will be useful to planning groups both within and without the city government.

Currently, almost all of the parking meters in San Diego are installed in the communities of Little Italy, Mission Hills, Bankers Hill and Hillcrest. The locations of meters will expand and spread throughout the city as the population increases.

The city’s contract for the smart meters is reported to have cost $8.1 million for five years of use and maintenance by the San Diego-based IPS Group, Inc., located in Sorrento Valley.

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