Phoenix adding more ‘user-friendly’ parking meters

Phoenix is increasing the amount of “user-friendly” parking meters offered in downtown Phoenix, officials said.
Phoenix Director of Street Transportation Ray Dovalina gave the City Council on Wednesday details on the improvements — which have been in development since 2012 — from which users could benefit.

Dovalina said many of the traditional parking meters downtown have been upgraded to “smart” parking meters, or parking meters that operate through credit card usage, while still maintaining the original rate of $1.50 per hour. He suggested that original parking meters were not user-friendly since coins had to be inserted into the parking meter.

“As the transition of smart meters have come in to play, the vast amount of people are using credit cards for (the parking meters),” Dovalina said. “Before, users would have to carry a lot of coins in their pockets.”

Pango application
The new parking meters operate through a smart phone application called Pango, a pay-by-phone program that allows users to easily input money on their parking meter through the app using the meter’s designated meter number. Pango quickens the amount of time it takes to set up the meter since users have already inputted their credit card information through the application. The application has about 350 new users each month, with about 6,400 current registered users.

The amount of coin-only parking meters in Phoenix has drastically lessened since 2014, when 53 percent of 1,850 parking meters only took coins. Currently, however, only 20 percent of parking meters are coin only, while card-operated parking meters account for 70 percent of all 2,080 parking meters.

As downtown Phoenix has become more active with business and resident interaction, the hours for the meters have been extended to from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on all days, including weekends and holidays. More smart parking meters have been added to the north of Van Buren Street and Roosevelt Row, with smart parking meters added to 230 meters of sidewalk this past spring.

ASU campus
The parking meter program has taken Arizona State University students at its Downtown campus into account, also.
Vice Mayor Kate Gallego said ASU students and downtown businesses had a tough time compromising in previous years.
“Students would often park at a business and want to stay the entire time while they were still in class,” Gallego said. “But businesses want to see a turnover.”

The program has been trying to balance student life with business parking by monitoring the parking meters. Dovalina said he noticed that many students had not experienced paid parking before and has since encouraged more public transit for students.

“It’s not a perfect situation for every individual, but I think we are doing a pretty good job since the beginning of this,” Dovalina said.

Past issues
Despite the recent upgrades to card-accepting machines through app usage, Councilwoman Laura Pastor had some issues in the past with the newer models of parking meters.
“I’ve experienced problems with (the meters) three times,” Pastor said. “The second time around, I put money in, and realized (the meter) was out. I was late to a meeting and tried to contact Pango to tell them the problem, but no one answered.”

Since Pastor had no way of reporting the issue to the Pango support number listed on the app, Dovalina said many of the Pango glitches were addressed and were perceived as minor in his perception.
“We’ve been working with the parking meter people to make sure the configuration between Pango and the smart meter is communicating faster with the parking meter enforcement,” Dovalina said. “We haven’t had any major issues since then.”

Regardless of the issues, parking meter revenues are projected to be $3.65 million in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, which would be a $300,000 jump from 2015-2016 revenues.
“I think what has made a difference that I have seen is a lot more activity in downtown,” Dovalina said. “Overall as a city, we need to manage the public in the right way and understand all these developments.”

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