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Cincinnati begins electronic upgrade to city’s parking meters

After approving $1.7 million in April, city workers are now sweeping across downtown to upgrade 1,400 parking meters. The new solar-powered meters will allow the use of credit cards in addition to coins for payment. City leaders expect the upgrade to improve revenues, while business owners hope it creates higher turnover at metered spaces.

Cincinnati city workers began upgrading 1,400 parking meters throughout downtown earlier this month. City leaders tout the new meters’ ability to accept credit cards (Visa, American Express and MasterCard) along with standard coin payments. Business leaders also expect for better turnover at the meters, which in turn might result in more customers for downtown store owners.

Work began on the installation of the new solar-powered meters on the east side of downtown and has been working westward throughout the month. City officials expect work to be completed on all 1,400 meters by the end of summer.

“This keeps you from having to walk around with a roll of quarters in your pocket,” Mayor Mark Mallory said in a prepared release. “It will make feeding your meter faster and more convenient, and actually decreases your chances of getting a parking ticket.”

The upgrades to Cincinnati’s old parking meters was first recommended by Walker Parking Consultants in a 2009 study. The study made a variety of recommendations to improve the system’s efficiency and total revenues by becoming more competitive with market rates. Approved in April 2011, the $1.7 million initiative will also include the installation of 50 multiple-space meters similar to those found on Court Street and 3rd Street. In total, the upgrades will impact approximately 25 percent of the city’s 5,600 metered spaces city-wide.

Last year UrbanCincy discovered that a potential privatization of Cincinnati’s parking services could generate approximately an additional $3 million annually for city coffers. Currently the city collects around $9 million annually from its on-street parking meters, off-street parking garages and lots. Parking meters make up a small portion of that revenue, and a privatization of those assets could prove to be beneficial for the city.

City officials say that those using the new meters will still get their first 10 minutes of parking for free. The city has posted additional information about how to use the new parking meters on their website.

Parking meter photograph by Thadd Fiala for UrbanCincy.

By Randy A. Simes

Randy is an award-winning urban planner who founded UrbanCincy in May 2007. He grew up on Cincinnati’s west side in Covedale, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s nationally acclaimed School of Planning in June 2009. In addition to maintaining ownership and serving as the managing editor for UrbanCincy, Randy has worked professionally as a planning consultant throughout the United States, Korea and the Middle East. After brief stints in Atlanta and Chicago, he currently lives in the Daechi neighborhood of Seoul’s Gangnam district.