Parking in downtown Asheville? A new convenience is coming your way.
It’s called Smart Parking. No, it doesn’t find a space for you on the street. But it will accept your credit or debit card, bypassing the Passport Parking program, if you choose.
By all means, cash is still accepted. The Passport Parking program will continue as well. But with an increasingly cashless society and an aging inventory of parking meters, the City of Asheville is looking to newer electronic meters as replacement.
A trial run of “smart meters” is slated to go up on Battery Park Avenue, from Wall Street to Otis, just in time for the SoCon basketball games in March. City Council voted Tuesday to waive a former credit card convenience fee of 25 cents for digital parking payments to meet Visa and MasterCard’s requirements.
“Originally, we hoped to be able to find new parking meters that only accepted coins but our research is verifying that the equipment is becoming obsolete and we are concerned that in a very few years, it might not be available any longer,” Transportation Director Ken Putnam wrote in a Feb. 23 staff report to Council. “So, we are now considering single-space ‘smart meters.’ In order to help with our decision process, we will be conducting a 90-day test period at 35 parking spaces in the Grove Arcade area beginning in March.”
The smart meters will still take coins, and they will even be programmed to take a dollar coin, said Keith Kennedy, Senior Parking Enforcement Officer. He calls the smart meters “a friendlier option.”
Plus they have all kinds of whizbang features. The graphic display has options that allow Parking Services to program special welcome messages onto them. So they could read, “Welcome to Asheville, SoCon fans.” Instead of several sometimes confusing stickers on the meters, information can be programmed into the display.
The smart meters will also allow Parking Services to track and analyze parking data for more effective service. Staff will be able to quickly pinpoint any malfunctioning meter and get it back online, for example.
Chances are the smart meters will have a minimal impact on ticketing, Putnam said. Onstreet parking spots will still be limited to two hours and people can still get tickets for overtime parking. “But this takes away the worry of having the right change because more people are going to plastic,” Putnam said.
With the use of Passport Parking the City has seen a 20% growth rate over cash parking income steadily per year. Will the smart meters bring more of a revenue increase? “We don’t know but it would be great,” said Putnam.
Will parking prices go up? “There are no immediately plan to increase prices but City Council asked us to analyze that later in the year,” Putnam said.
Currently, the only area the City is authorized to charge for onstreet parking is in the Central Business District. The price is $1.25 per hour.
Stay tuned for more information about smart parking meters. The pilot project will likely expand. For more information or to give your feedback, call Parking Services at 828-259-5792 or visit ashevillenc.gov/ParkingServices.
Smart meter test site