Sacramento enters era of parking meters with no time limits

For decades, each of the 4,300 parking meters in Sacramento’s central city has had a maximum time limit. Some give you 30 minutes. Others let you stay up to two hours before you must move along.

That’s all about to be old school.

Last week, the city began phasing in a system that allows parkers to stay as long as they want at any meter, if they’re willing to pay a premium price for the extra hours.

Officials say it allows people to spend more time at a restaurant or a meeting and not have to run back only to find a citation pinned under a windshield wiper.

The first set of extra-hours meters is already operating around the Crocker Museum. The city will expand the system in increments over the coming months. The city’s website explaining details is

If you initially paid the meter with coins or slipped your credit card in there, you’ll have to walk back to the meter later to buy the extra time. But if you download the city’s “parkmobile” app on your smartphone and use that to pay your initial time, you’ll get a warning text a few minutes before the meter expires and an offer to add minutes via your smartphone app from where you are.

Officials started it first at the Crocker partly because the museum’s docents were upset that the three-hour meters out front didn’t give them enough time to work their shifts without having to run out to move their car to a new spot.

The regular hourly rate at meters is $1.75. All meters will still have a nominal limit. But, if at a two-hour meter you want to pay for an extra hour, that third hour will cost $3. Any hour after that will cost $3.75. You can pay in increments of hours, too, say if you just needed an extra 15 minutes on the meter.

City officials said they chose the premium rates to encourage parkers staying longer to use city garages, where the hourly rate is $3.

Sacramento officials recently said they would start extending meter hours in the downtown core to 10 p.m. this spring. But restaurant owners and other businesses have expressed tons of concerns about how the changes will affect their employees and customers.

So the city is postponing its night metering plans for a few months, possibly until August. “We’re working with the stakeholders to come to a solution that everyone can live with,” city spokeswoman Linda Tucker said.

Josh Wood, who represents some restaurant owners in midtown, said restaurants do not want their customers to have to pay higher arena-related parking rates when events are being held at nearby Golden 1 Center, which opens this fall.

Some also are concerned about where employees will park. The city offers discounted restaurant employee parking at city garages, but Wood said that doesn’t work for restaurants that aren’t near city garages.

“It’s difficult,” he said. “They are biting off a lot very fast.”

The city has other major downtown parking changes in the works, including automation upgrades at downtown parking garages. Ultimately, downtown visitors will be able to check their smartphone parking apps to see, reserve and pay for a garage spot in advance.

City officials say their phone app also eventually will tell you where the best parking rates are on the streets and which spots are available. That may be a key to avoiding chaos on event nights at the arena.

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