Since last summer, the City of Iowa City Transportation Services Department and the Iowa City Downtown District have been working with businesses and the public to gather feedback and devise new strategies to make downtown parking more convenient and accessible. One of the needs identified during those discussions involved an upgrade to parking meters that would accept alternative methods of payment -- debit cards, credit cards, cell phones, as well as coins -- and next week, the public will have an opportunity to try out some of those new technologies.
Five parking meter manufacturers competing for the City's contract will set up shop in downtown Iowa City for two weeks, from Monday, April 15 through Friday, April 26, to showcase their products and give parking patrons the opportunity to provide feedback to the City on which system they prefer. The new meters will be temporarily installed in the core of downtown, the 10-block of South Clinton and South Dubuque Streets, and the 100-block of East Iowa and East Washington Streets. Some will be multi-space systems where one meter will service up to 10 parking spaces, while others will feature the more traditional style of one meter per parking space.
People who park in spaces featuring the temporary new meters will pay the usual parking rates, but will also have the opportunity to see demos of the new meters, evaluate the meter systems, and provide feedback to Transportation Services staff who will be available in each of the areas from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday during the trial period. Feedback may also be submitted via the web page at www.icgov.org/downtownparking or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transportation Services Director Chris O'Brien reports that in addition to alternative payment methods, some of the other potential features include smart technology that can notify drivers of parking spaces that are open nearby, and real-time data on parking patterns and usage that can help identify emerging trends and allow the department to evaluate parking systems to respond to consumer demand.
The new meters being considered by
the City will offer many new features
-- and may not look at all like
the traditional meters now in place.
The public's feedback on the new meter systems will be combined with several other factors, including system cost, equipment durability, and company reputation, in determining which company will be awarded the contract, O'Brien said.The new meters are expected to be permanently installed by July 1, when the Transportation Services Department will simultaneously launch other changes to its parking program.
One is a "first hour free" initiative in the downtown area, in which one hour of free parking will be available in the Capitol Street, Dubuque Street, and Tower Place parking ramps, with the Court Street Transportation Center to be added later in the summer. Additional changes that will be implemented as a part of the "first hour free" initiative on July 1 will be an increase in parking rates for on-street and ramp parking. Consideration is also being given to extending enforcement hours in the evenings to encourage parking turnover after 5 p.m. The cost of permit parking will not change.