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Changing to Pay-&-Display parking meters-Appearance Issues

By: Tom Davis Category: Parking, Sidewalk Features

Solar powered pay-and-display parking meter.Many issues were considered when the City of Houston wanted to change parking meters. The change was to be from a mixture of single/dual space meters on a single post along with modern multi-space meters–recently added in the Cotswold area of downtown–to the more sophisticated solar-powered, micro-processor controlled, wifi networked, parking meter. This first post about our conversion relates how we mitigated the issue of the meter’s high-tech appearance in front of a historic structure.  I will offer other posts about the transition as you may be surprised how many hot points can be touched by a parking meter debate.

This first post about the change will address a difficult, sensitive issue in some locations–the new meter’s appearance and contribution to the streetscape. The appearance was a consideration when the meter was selected although no single meter design could compliment all the buildings in downtown Houston that range from 60-story glass skyscraper to the old brick bar next to loft apartments in an old converted office building that is next to a beautiful 1900’s bank.  As you can see in the photo the selected meter fits in much better in the new high-rise office area of downtown than in the historic area–both of which are in downtown Houston.

Grid powered pay and display parking meter under trees. Not sufficient "sky view" or time to charge battery  for number of customers.The most disturbing part of the meter’s appearance to many is the solar panel perched on top. Of course the solar panel is an important part of the economy’s touted by the meter’s advocates as the panel powers a battery charger that charges the battery that powers the processor, wifi-communications device and money and credit cards devices. If there are not too many transactions, and the meter has a good open view of a bright part of the sky, then all works well. But, the solar issue is for another post.

The solution for those unhappy with the solar panel is to run permanent power to the meter to power the battery charger so the solar panel can be removed. That raises the typical two issues: where does the power come from and how does it get to the base of the meter. In those areas where the panel was thought to be the most inappropriate power, and someone would fund the work, permanent power came from either the traffic signal junction box at the nearest intersection or from the adjacent private property. The amount of power used is insignificant so the issue is the cost of wiring to the source.

To reach the parking meter we usually directional drilled to the curb and gutter. We then removed the curb and gutter to make the sharp 90-degree turns not possible by the directional drill. The drill down to the meter location, dig under the curb-and-gutter and a small part of the sidewalk to below the meter. Some will ask why not connect to the street lighting circuits running behind the curb-and-gutter. The answer is the street lights are regulated by special codes and Public Utility Commission agreements that are too hard to change. The primary issue is those circuits are un-metered and power cannot be given away to parking meters. That to is a complicated matter for perhaps another post.Two solar powered pay and display parking meters

Once the solar panels were removed in some locations I still heard grumblings about the look. But no one complains about the convenience of being able to pay with a credit card-and get a receipt-or have the display screen provide instructions in multiple languages. Another plus is that the meter knows the time and day of the week so it does not take your money when parking is free. The wi-fi connection also allows for remote reprogramming.

Watch for future parking meter related posts about:

– The testing period with various P&D parking meters and the intercept survey of the users;

– Re-configure parking related signage and some mobility signage to reduce clutter and convey a clear message;

– Wi-fi issues in the street grid with high-rise buildings;

– Solar panels v. buildings and trees.

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1 Comments to “Changing to Pay-&-Display parking meters-Appearance Issues”


  1. Almost every city now has Pay & Display machines that dispense parking receipts that you need to display through your windshield. Besides the aesthetics issues, dealing with paper receipts has its own practical issues. I dislike the accumulation of receipts and many times they would get stuck between the windshield and the dashboard. Once, my receipt blew off the dashboard and I got a ticket! I looked for solutions but could not find any and then invented Park ‘n’ Display (http://www.parkndisplay.com) to deal with these problems.

    Park ‘n’ Display displays, holds and stores parking receipts, placards and even toll pass transponders. The device is attached to the inside of your vehicle’s windshield with VELCRO® brand fasteners, making it simple to attach and detach. Our patent pending design allows for quick and easy insertion and removal of multiple receipts and placards so one can remove them all at once for disposal or for tracking business expenses.

    The initial response by users to the Park ‘n’ Display device has been fantastic (especially from commercial users). Visit http://www.parkndisplay.com for more information or to purchase one.

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