New Parking Meters: Follow-Up

 It’s been nearly a month since a new parking meter system was introduced in the downtown area between Lumpkin and Thomas Streets, and officials have now finally begun to enforce ticketing for those who overstay their welcome.

Athens residents will have to make sure they feed the new “pay-and-display” parking meters, or face a ticket. But at least now they can pay them online.

It still remains to be seen whether these machines, part of a year-long pilot program spearheaded by the Athens Downtown Development Authority (ADDA), will solve all of the issues that many UGA students complain about, such as there not being enough parking spaces downtown.

 One issue that the switch to the pay-and-display meters remedies is outdated technology, said Laura Miller, Director of Street Parking Operations for the ADDA. According to her, the new machines improve on many of the limitations of the old technology, allowing for greater customer convenience.

“The old single-space meters are 25-30 years old,” Miller said. “The newer technology provides a couple of benefits. One, for example, is that your receipt simply goes in your windshield, so you can move and park somewhere else without paying again.”

Currently, the pay-and-display machines can be found only between Lumpkin and Thomas Streets. Because this is a pilot program for the ADDA, the old parking meters throughout the rest of downtown have not yet been replaced. Residents, however, may soon be seeing these meters everywhere.

“We have a contract with Parkeon, European manufacturing company, now based in Morristown, NJ,” Miller said. “If things go well eventually these machines will be all over downtown.”

But have these new machines fixed any underlying parking issues in downtown Athens, such as limited UGA student parking? This remains to be seen, Miller said, but they certainly give citizens more payment options. In fact, online payment for monthly parking fees and citations is now accepted through the ADDA website.

“These machines also provide three payment methods,” she said. “Dollar bills, credit and debit, and of course, coins. This is an improvement from before, when it was only coins.” The maximum amount of time residents may use the pay-and-display machines at a given time is two hours, but Miller said most residents do not even come close to reaching the limit.

“It will take a little over a year, but we’re already getting lots of good data,” Miller said. “We know, for example, that the mean duration of parking at these meters is roughly 75 minutes—just over the amount of time it takes for a student to park, head to class, and quickly run back.”

Miller estimates that it will take a full year for the ADDA to evaluate the effectiveness of these machines. She said that the main criteria of success will be improving the ease of issuing citations, and convenience to residents.

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