Portsmouth tests ‘smart’ parking meters

PORTSMOUTH — The city is testing eight new sensor parking meters on Daniel Street that accept credit cards, unlike most other single-space meters in Portsmouth.

“Eventually, we’d like to take all of our single-space meters, there’s 215 of them, and replace them with these,” said the city’s parking director Joey Giordano.

The eight new meters give motorists convenience, he said. They also recognize most people prefer plastic to pay for parking.

“Right now, we’re up to 70 percent credit card usage and before they were just regular meters,” Giordano said. “When prices go up to $1.75 an hour … who carries around 14 quarters to pay to park for two hours?”

Giordano often hears from people “clamoring to me about why we don’t take credit cards at our meters.”

City staff will test the new sensor meters for free for two months, he said, as he stood next to two new meters on Daniel Street.

“So we’re making them prove it,” Giordano said Friday morning. “The sensor feature is about $250 more than a standard meter. It’s something we really want to see if it’s worth the investment.”

Giordano said the city conducts two or three parking counts a year to study occupancy at the meters. The studies can cost as much as $20,000 each. The new meters provide daily occupancy rate reports through a management app city parking facilities manager Mike Casad has on his phone.

The new meters “are just going to give us so much information,” Giordano said. “It will let our enforcement people know if a spot’s been paid and if somebody’s in a spot, and also the technology inside will let our meter repair people know when the boxes need to be emptied when the coins are in it. When the modem goes down it will let us know, when a coin slot is broken, it will let us know, so it’s … taking an old tried and true method and just bringing it into the 21st century.”

For most of the other single-space meters in the city, Casad or one of his staffers have to walk around and manually check to see when each meter was filling up with coins, Giordano said.

“Now this one sends us a report when the meters are 75 percent full,” he said. “It’s a much better use of manpower.”

The city is also planning to launch a new app, called Passport, which will allow people to pay at any meter in Portsmouth just by using the app, Giordano said. Using the app with the new parking meters will send a green light to the meter and information to the parking enforcement officers so they know when the space has been paid for, Giordano said.

But he stressed the new technology won’t take the human element out of parking enforcement.
“It’s not like the machine writes tickets. We still have to enforce it,” Giordano said. “I give my guys the leeway to take tickets back from people if they’re a few minutes over. We’re not a revenue generator, we’re a manager of occupancy.”

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