Circling a city block looking for a parking spot is a frustrating urban ritual, one that the city hopes to reduce with new parking meter technology that could start popping up on Seattle’s streets next year.
Earlier this week, the City Council’s Transportation Committee approved a plan that would involve replacing and retrofitting the city’s 2,200 parking pay stations. One major reason for the project, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation, is simply that many of the existing stations are getting old. But by updating the kiosks with newer “smart” technology, the city will also be able to set higher or lower rates for parking depending on the demand for spaces in different neighborhoods at different times of the day.
“A lot of the pay stations out there right now are like having a 10-year-old cell phone,” said Mike Estey, manager for parking operations and traffic permits for SDOT. For example, adjusting rates involves sending a person to each kiosk to install new programming. That process could be done remotely, from an office, with the new machines the city is planning to buy. The new pay stations should also be able to process transactions faster and will also not suck in credit cards the way the current machines do, reducing the risk the cards will get stuck — or forgotten.
“Another thing we’re talking about doing is going to time-of-day pricing,” Estey said. “It helps to make sure there’s either one or two spots available per block.”