New, smarter parking meters start appearing in downtown Minneapolis

One by one, crews are installing the first of a new generation of smart parking meters in downtown Minneapolis. The multi-space meter pay stations, similar to ones now in service in Chicago, Los Angeles and many other cities, are designed to make it easier for any driver who parks on the street by letting them use credit cards to pay for meter time.

A total of 46 meter pay stations will be installed in the North Loop neighborhood over the next few days, with one machine installed per side of a city block. The older, traditional parking meters will stay in service until the City is ready for these new meter pay stations to start working. The older meters will then be removed and drivers will begin using the new meter pay stations.

By the end of the month, the new meter pay stations will be used to pay for parking for approximately 450 on-street spaces.  Next year, plans call for the installation of another 200 multi-space stations (approximately 2,000 metered spaces), with another 200 stations (2,000 metered spaces) going in the following year. Eventually, these meter pay stations will be the most common ones drivers use when parking Downtown.

Unlike traditional meters, each parking space will not have its own meter. Instead, spaces will have unique numbers that can be used to pay for time at any one of the City's multi-space meter pay stations. Drivers just need to input their space numbers, then pay for time using credit cards, debit cards or the usual cash options of quarters and dollar coins.  

The new meters provide other advantages, too. They’re programmable, and have the ability to handle variable parking rates at different times of day. They can warn drivers of "tow away" zones during peak periods so they’ll know that they need to move their car by a certain time.  They also will not allow drivers to pay the meter during these times.  

This technology helps the City provide better services economically. The meter pay stations are solar powered and will take advantage of the City's WIFI network by transmitting real-time data on parking meter usage to the Traffic Control Agents and Minneapolis’ traffic and parking engineers. Because many transactions will be handled electronically, there will be less of a need to empty the meters. That, along with having just one meter pay station per side of the block, means crews will spend less time collecting money from the meters.

Most of Minneapolis’ current single-spaced parking meters were installed in 1992 and are now approaching the end of their useful lives. The new multi-spaced meters were chosen as a result of a selection process that included written proposals and a six-month field test along Minneapolis streets.  

For more information on Minneapolis parking meters, go to the Parking website.

Published Nov 9, 2010