Posts Tagged ‘parking meters’

Missing out on a public library parking lot nudge

July 8, 2008

The public library in Bethesda, Maryland, is just two short blocks away from a red line Metro stop that takes riders to downtown D.C. in 20 short minutes. For many years, the library had meters in its parking lot. People who lived far from the Metro stop but worked in D.C. were sometimes known to park at the meters and ride into the city, leaving less space for library visitors and would-be readers. Conveniently for Metro hoppers, the meters with the longest allowable hours were located at the outer edge of the parking lot, closest to the metro stop. Not surprisingly, this parking system created a small controversy with some local residents arguing that the lot should be reserved for library users only, while other county residents claiming that, as taxpayers, they had the right to park on county property without necessarily using the library.

In the end, the library got rid of its old single meters in favor of a centralized parking system that eliminates Metro hopping. People who park in the lot are now required to walk into the library lobby and get a ticket to place on their car’s dashboard. Each parking space has a number. Strict time limits for parking spots make Metro hopping very difficult.

While the county’s final decision was a mandate, it missed an opportunity for a nudge. For instance, the county could have set aside a limited number of spots at the edge of its lots for Metro hoppers or library users. Instead of using the designated parking machine in the lobby, Metro hoppers would have to use a separate machine located at the point on the library’s property furthest away from the set of spaces (an outside location on the other side of the building would be perfect). To keep Metro hoppers honest, library staffers might occasionally announce parking space numbers and fine patrons who did not present their ticket within 30 minutes.

Addendum: If the cost of a new kiosk and parking machine is too expensive, an alternative would be to randomly allow parking for non-library users on the machine inside the library. Rather than randomize on a daily basis, which would allow metro riders to alert friends through email or text, the machines could randomize spaces literally by the minute. Some people will no doubt want to “spin again” if they lose out on a space the first time. The county could consider two options: 1) Limit the number of “spins” within a certain extended time period that would be long enough to exact a cost on people who are willing to wait around (say 20 minutes); 2) Charge for each additional spin (maybe $2).

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A parking meter that warns you when time is about to expire

April 28, 2008

Duncan Solutions offers a parking meter than sends a text message to your cell phone 10 minutes before your meter time expires, and gives you the option of purchasing more time by making a cell phone call.

The company also sells meters that allow users to pay by credit card. This option, it says, actually increases the amount of revenue a city generates through parking fees. “We’ve found that people paying the meter with coins tend to pay the minimum or with whatever coins they have readily available. But, with credit cards, people tend to put in a lot more, generally the maximum. Our current average credit card transaction is $2.22. But, our average coin transaction is only 74 cents,” reads a company brochure. So far, these meters are up and working in Las Vegas.

Homelessness and parking meters

April 9, 2008

As part of a grassroots campaign to fight homelessness, the City of Denver began installing “donation” parking meters last year. The meters are effort by the city to direct money – typically loose change – that would be given to panhandlers into community programs that provide meals, job training and education services, substance abuse help, and affordable housing.

parking meter

The meters are a well-designed nudge. They are hard to miss. They are painted red (the rest of Denver’s meters are gray). They are installed strategically on street corners where panhandling and pedestrian traffic is high. And they prompt people for change at the exact moment most people are fiddling with quarters to pay for their parking. There are now at least 86 “donation” meters featuring exhortations to help end homelessness, business and individual sponsors’ stickers, and references to Denver’s Road Home, the public organization tasked to lead the city’s 10-year policy plan. In the first month of operation, last May, the city raised almost $2,000 from 36 meters, which each hold up to $60 in change. The goal is to raise at least $100,000 per year. Denver’s officials said that people gave about $4 million a year to panhandlers.

Denver is not the only city that uses a parking meter nudge. Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Montreal and Baltimore have put in parking meters similar to Denver’s. Chattanooga, Tennessee, has installed meters to raise money for city artists. There is also this meter in Ohio that takes donations for parks. We haven’t seen any yet in Chicago, but we’re keeping out eyes peeled.