The city’s half million dollar plan to improve Downtown parking

The struggle is real when it comes to Downtown parking.

Too few parking spots is a common complaint among visitors and businesses. Real estate brokers who have tried to relocate big employers Downtown say the hodgepodge of various parking lot owners is a big hurdle.

And even though the city has tried to improve street parking with interactive kiosks that accept credit cards, they’re often broken.

To create a better parking experience, the city of Albuquerque is about to spend nearly half a million to improve street parking Downtown with new smart parking meters.

They’re the single-space meters, the same ones installed in Nob Hill and East Downtown in 2014. The city said that pilot program was successful, so it will install 550 new smart meters Downtown.

Greg Smith, deputy director of the city’s parking and security, said those new meters have been ordered and installation will begin in two to three weeks, with most up and running by August. The cost of the meters and installation is $475,000.

Smith said the new meters, sold by the San Diego-based company IPS Group Inc., are more customer friendly. They accepts coins, debit and credit cards, like other kiosks. But what makes them more efficient is that they are more reliable, because they’re solar powered and deliver information to the city wirelessly.

“When there is technical problem, the meter will immediately notify parking personnel, which leads to faster maintenance,” Smith said.

The new parking meters will also help the city understand what areas see more traffic. The meters provide data such as peak times and in-demand areas, and how much time is purchased. They also alert parking attendants of expired time.

The meters also can be programed to create surge pricing, where certain spots are more expensive if they’re, say, directly in front of a business located near a special event.

The city has other efforts to make Downtown parking more efficient.

The city is considering a Downtown parking benefit district, which would apply surge pricing all over Downtown. The city estimates there are about 14,000 parking spots Downtown, either owned by the city or private companies and parking lot owners. And last year, the mayor announced a 400 space $15.5 million parking garage near First Street and Central Avenue.

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