News Column

New St. Louis parking meters bring change and confusion

May 3, 2014

By Nicholas J.C. Pistor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch



May 03--ST. LOUIS -- Street parking in the city will never be the same.

For decades, paying to park on the street meant dropping change into a meter. Now, test locations at intersections in downtown and the Central West End give parkers more options, including credit card payments and mobile phone apps.

But change brings confusion. Users must learn how to operate the meters on the spot or face surprise parking tickets.

Multi-space meters on a stretch of Euclid Avenue, which have numbers posted in place of parking meters with arrows pointing to a central pay station, have proved particularly confusing.

That system has caught the ire of Bill Haas, a St. Louis school board member who is running for state representative in Missouri's 77th district, which overlaps an area with the test meters.

"It's a terrible system," Haas said.

Haas said motorists can easily be confused because it appears that the arrows are pointing to the space itself, which could cause motorists to type the wrong number into the pay station.

"Either take the arrows off ... or use the Clayton system where spaces don't have numbers," Haas said.

Clayton and a few other area cities have also adopted new parking technology, all with slightly different approaches.

The St. Louis meters have four different vendors, depending on the location, and different types of technology. Some are single meters, others are multi-space, like the ones on Euclid.

City Treasurer Tishaura Jones, who oversees parking in the city, is conducting a six-month study to see which works best. Eventually, one vendor will be chosen and rolled out at street spaces throughout the city.

Jones acknowledges the confusion. For a time, she conceded, the arrows in the spots on Euclid were pointing in the wrong direction, causing motorists to get tickets.

"This is new, and we want everyone's feedback," Jones said.

Jones said anyone who has had problems with the new meters can contact her office, and employees will work with them on a resolution.

The test program ends in July. Users can take a survey on the treasurer's website. Jones said the feedback will make up about 20 percent of her decision on which technology to use throughout the city.

The program is also testing two different mobile parking apps, PassportParking and Parkmobile.

The test locations are now limited to downtown and the Central West End. The locations downtown are on 10th Street between Chestnut and Washington Avenue; and at Broadway and Pine. The Central West End locations are at Maryland and Euclid Avenue; and Laclede and Euclid.

Parking in the city had long been resistant to change. Larry Williams had held the treasurer's job from 1981 until his retirement in 2013. Street parking remained unchanged over those years, even though other cities had adapted to new technologies.

Jones has worked to modernize the office, and says she isn't there to preserve the status quo.

"I'm not here to hold my job for 30 years like my predecessor," Jones said at a recent meeting with the Post-Dispatch editorial board.

Follow reporter Nick Pistor on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nickpistor

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(c)2014 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch at www.stltoday.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


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