3/5/09 - ADVISORY BOARD MEETING: PARKING METERS DOWNTOWN - The Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board met for its monthly meeting this week, and the meeting unintentionally centered around parking meter technologies and proposals for downtown Reno. What was supposed to take 15 minutes expanded to over an hour. However it was interesting nonetheless. So the breakdown:
Downtown's parking meters are aging, quickly. Most of the 1200 meters downtown are 13 years old, and 10 years is considered a good long life for a parking meter. 183 of those meters are newer, and feature Smart Card technology, however the infrastructure is not in place yet to use them. A Smart Card is a credit-card sized swipe card that can be filled up with 'parking money' at a kiosk, and then you can use the card at any meter, and the meter debits the card's funds. The City Council is interested in parking meters that offer additional payment options and convenience.
Three companies were on-hand to give presentations, one of them flying in from Florida to give their presentation.
Secure Storage Technologies - This was definitely my favorite of the three, simply because I love it when technology is used to increase revenue/convenience. SST's system uses multi-space kiosks - this means that one Kiosk controls up to 10 spaces, or approximately one city block. Each parking space has in-ground sensors to detect when a car parks in the spot, and when the car leaves. Also attached to the kiosk would be a bike storage and lock system that I 'think' allows people to store their bikes and scooters without needing a bike lock. The system can also be configured to be a bike rental system.. The kiosk has a bright 15 inch color touch screen and push button for help that connects to 24 hour manned call center, directly from the kiosk! The kiosk allows people to pay by debit/credit or coin, and select how long they want the space for. The system can be programmed from back office for variable rates on the fly during special events. It's a Reno-based company, and if selected, the headquarters for the call center and operations would be located in downtown Reno, for the entire company, producing 150 jobs. Headquarters would serve as home base for additional cities that use this system as well. Reno would be the first city to receive this system. SST would guarantee federal grant money before installing it, and the grant money would cover 50-60% of the cost. Ongoing maintenance fees are calculated through a revenue sharing program. They already have a verbal agreement with RTC for bike storage systems and UNR as well. This company is also working with Reno Aces and the Tessera project. Other features include 7 x 24 manned call center, network operations center, video surveillance, and content and advertising aggregation into the kiosks. They also collect all coin, credit card etc. $1.6 million one time cost for this system city-wide, roughly half of that to be paid with federal grant money.
Cale Systems - These guys were my second-favorite. Cale is based in Florida, and is the largest parking meter company in the world. They have done parking since 1955 - they do both forms of multispace parking. Portland, the City of Berkeley, Oakland, and Truckee California use this company on an ongoing basis. Their system utilizes a 'Pay and Display' system. This system uses kiosks like SST, but instead of using sensors to detect car activity, it uses a ticket/receipt system. Basically, you find/walk up to the kiosk, purchase some time for your parking space, and a receipt/ticket prints out which you then display on your car's dash. The system can process a credit card in less than 8 seconds, of which Ryan from Cale said was the fastest processing time in the industry. Portland picked them because the equipment/back office works flawlessly. Both Portland and Berkeley increased revenue by at least 20% after installing this system. The back-office portion is Web based - approves credit card in 8 seconds. Truckee uses this company. The drawback to this system is it still requires foot-enforcement to see if people's time is expired, where-as SST's system notifies parking enforcement via text/email when the time is expired for any one parking spot. Also, it requires people to find the kiosk for the block they parked in, get a ticket, then walk back to their car to put it in their dash. A slight inconvenience.
McCane Meters - The final presenter was McCane Meters, a company that is already supplying Reno with smart card meters. McCane Meters was the only company to propose sticking with the single-space meter system. The idea here would be to install a Smart Card purchasing station at City Hall downtown, where you could purchase a Smart Card with some funds installed on it. Then, you can use that card at any parking meter in lieu of coin. Each parking space would still have its own meter, and you would still be able to use coin, if the Smart Card concept seems foreign to you or freaks you out. The benefit to using this system is it's the cheapest - it simply involves switching out the meter heads around town, and installing a Smart Card kiosk. However, it doesn't have a lot of the features City Council was looking for, so I 'doubt' this is the system that will be picked, although I could be wrong.
So after hearing the presentations, the Advisory Board was exhausted, yet excited at the same time. Most on the board seemed to feel in spite of the expenses, it was worth it to try BOTH SST's AND Cale's systems. It was then discussed that the SST and Cale both enter into pilot programs with the city, so the city can test out both their systems in a real-time environment, for 3 months. These pilot areas will most likely be the Wingfield area, and California Avenue, which currently doesn't have any meters. This is ultimately what was recommended to the Council via motion. Thoughts? Which system do you like best?