The big story out of Easton yesterday was same-sex marriage benefits, and that’s obviously a huge progressive win, but I want to focus on the smaller progressive win – smart meters. Tom Coombe reports:
In other business, council approved a lease with a company called Streetsmart Technology, which will bring new “smart meters” to the city.
Councilman Jeffrey Warren, who held a hearing in March on the issue, said he recognizes that residents are hesitant about the meters, but also argued that “we’ve been stagnant for awhile in this area.”
This is something the city has been discussing a lot in the past few months. The mayor has said Easton is “backwards” in some aspects of its parking, for example, charging more to park in the city’s parking garage than on the street.
Councilman Roger Ruggles objected to one aspect of the smart meters: the way the meters reset after a driver pulls out of a space.
“I think that’s thivery. I think the city is stealing that money from me,” Ruggles said.
“Nobody’s making you move your car,” Warner told him.
Panto said it’s possible to install the meters without that feature, and that it’s something the city can look at before they’re implemented. The city is also looking at putting meters that could accept coins, cash and cards at the lot on Third Street, the mayor said.
So two points here:
Panto’s right, the prices should nudge people to park in the garages if they’re going to be parking for longer than two hours. I realize time limits just got increased to 3 hours, but I would’ve voted against that. I think you want to aim for 15% of parking spaces on each block to be empty at all times so that it’s easy for people who need to park right in front of their destination to be able to do so – but they should pay for the convenience with higher meter prices. Ideally you’d have the meter prices rising or falling throughout the day to meet demand. For anything longer than 2 hours, you want people parking in the garage. You can use relative prices to communicate that.
Roger Ruggles is wrong. Obviously we all put too much money in the meter sometimes just to be safe, but nobody tries to shake down the city over 50 cents. Under the current system it gets transferred to the next person who parks your space. Under the new system it would be collected by the city as revenue. Who cares? Either way you’ve lost some pocket change. If the city needs less in property taxes because it’s getting more revenue from parking leftovers, that’s clearly an improvement. Don’t overfeed the meter and you won’t have to worry about it.