Girl by the whirlpool
Lookin’ for a new fool
Don’t follow leaders
Watch the parkin’ meters
-Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues
So in the past couple weeks, I’ve noticed something strange. The parking meters throughout downtown Boulder are disappearing and being replaced with new Swedish-built solar-powered parking pay stations located on each block. Happily, these pay stations accept credit cards, pre-pay cards (not yet, but soon) and coins. Sadly, they do not accept the old meter-keys that worked so well with the old meters. Now I’ve got ~$50 trapped on one of those keys, and no way (so far) to exchange them, though Boulder Parking Services assures me that the ability to exchange them for a pre-pay card is coming soon. And now there are blocks full of decapitated parking meter posts all over the city. Presumably those will be removed at some point.
In theory, the change to this "platform" has multiple benefits: each pay station replaces a block worth of meters, reducing Boulder’s maintenance costs since one pay station replaces 10+ meters. The pay stations communicate wirelessly to a central office, providing the city with parking statistics and alerts when a station malfunctions. For the parker, one has the benefit of more payment options and a driver can re-park elsewhere in the city and get the benefit of remaining unused time paid at the pay station. The (small) downside is having to walk down the block to the nearest pay station and return to one’s car to place the parking ticket on the dashboard. But in fitness-obsessed Boulder, I’m sure this is viewed more as a benefit. I just wish there were more payment options and the machines accepted the old meter keys, or, even better, payment via cell-phone/SMS…