Donald Shoup, an urban planning professor at UCLA who wrote “The High Cost of Free Parking,” said this wave of smart meters marks the first major change in curbside parking in America since the invention of the meter 76 years ago.
“Most parking meters still resemble the first model. The original versions are a devilish combination of alarm clock and slot machine. The user puts coins in it and hopes to return before the time runs out,” Shoup said. “I can’t think of any other payment technology that has remained the same since 1935.”
Tom Hartley, director of the Bethlehem Parking Authority, said he sees more ways to use the technology once people get used to the system.
Applications could be created so that people can put more time on a meter without being at the meter. A business meeting running longer than expected? Linger too long with after-dinner drinks? Take out your smart phone and put more money on the meter.
Hartley also envisions a way to use the collection information to create applications that show where the empty parking spots are. That frees motorists from having hunt for a spot, taking traffic off the streets.
And UCLA’s Shoup pointed out that other communities have been able to use the data to control parking. They charge more at peak hours and less during off-peak hours, encouraging more turnover at the busiest times of the day.