Introducing the sonar parking meter
A regular ol' parking meter
TEXT OF STORY
MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: We hear all the time about how fast our world is changing. New technology makes a lot of things feel outdated. For example, when was the last time you stepped into a phone booth? Do you unfold a map to find your destination or just print out directions from MapQuest? Well brace yourself, here comes another new-fangled parking meter. Stuart Cohen warns we may not like it.
STUART COHEN: It may be one of the biggest of small victories in the daily urban rat race. You drive around and around a busy downtown area looking for parking until you finally find an empty space and the best part, there's still time left on the meter.
That may only represent a savings of 25 cents, but somehow it makes the excruciating search for parking more worthwhile. Now someone wants to take that all away.
GLEN HELLMAN:"We have a vehicle detection unit, so the big difference is, is we can sense, through sonar, whether there's a vehicle in the space, and we call it an intelligent parking meter."
Glen Hellman is CEO of the Bethesda, Maryland-based company, Intellipark. Their meters may look the same, but he says they do a lot more than the old-fashioned parking meter.
HELLMAN: If there's time left on the meter, when you pull out of the space, it zeroes out the meter. So somebody pulling into that spot is going to have to pay from scratch. They don't get that found money, found time any more.
Hellman says cities can make up to 50 percent more on parking with that little feature. But the local residents who pay for parking aren't sure they like the idea.
ED CARMEN: I think if you don't use all your time it should be still there. You know, so the next person can possibly benefit from it.
DENORA CARMENDEZ: It's my money, you know, can somebody use it instead of the state?
But the meters don't just take, they also give: five minutes of free parking to be exact every time they sense a car pull in. That's long enough for most people to run a quick errand, without having to search for quarters.
They also prevent people from feeding a meter once their time's expired since the meter knows a car hasn't left the parking space. That appeals to cities like Hyattsville, Maryland, one of the first to test the new Intellimeter. Bob Oliphant is the city treasurer.
BOB OLIPHANT: The, the additional revenue that'll be generated is not in and if itself significant. It's a matter of managing the parking better so that we get more people coming here and wanting to do business in the city.
Donald Shoup is a professor of urban planning at UCLA, and the country's foremost authority on parking. He says high-tech meters like the Intellimeter have the ability to transmit all the information they gather back to city hall. That'll revolutionize parking . . . and parking tickets.
DONALD SHOUP: So, instead of having enforcement people randomly driving around looking for a violation, they'd just go to the places where that data is.
So what else does the future hold?
Well, Intellipark's Glen Hellman says intelligent meters will eventually link up with GPS systems, so your car could direct you to an open parking space.
And one day your parking meter will be able to call your cell phone to warn you your time is about to expire.
In Washington, I'm Stuart Cohen for Marketplace.