City officials unveiled three different credit card smart meters and one pay station on Wednesday morning from the Main Street Square parking garage to mark the start of a 60-day pilot period testing the new technologies.
Using meters from three different manufacturers and a central pay station, the new technology will be positioned on the first level of the Main Street Square parking garage and at the surface parking lot located at Sixth and St. Joseph streets until Sept. 30. Along with the capability to accept coin payments, the meters and pay station will also accept credit/debit cards with a $1 minimum transaction fee for credit/debit card use.
“We’re excited about this new technology and the public’s ability to use this over the next 60 days,” city spokesman Darrell Shoemaker said from the first story of the parking garage.
The pilot comes as the city works to overhaul its downtown parking system, which will require multiple ordinance changes. Ultimately, it's expected to result in smart meters being installed in the current three-hour parking zones — as well as replacing the old, coin operated meters in city lots and the garage — and the current meters in parking spots outside the core downtown district being removed and converted to non-metered, two hour limits.
To assist the public in using the new technology, signage is attached to each meter and pay station and the Rapid City Police Department will release “walk-through videos” in the coming days to show how to use the meters. The videos, RCPD spokesman Brendyn Medina said, will be posted on the police department and city’s social media pages. Links to an online survey where users can provide feedback on each of the meters will also be included on the signage.
Two public meetings have been scheduled for Sept. 6 at 12 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. in the Hoyt Room of the Rapid City Public Library to learn more about proposed changes to the city’s downtown parking system and provide feedback on the parking meter pilot project.
At the pilot’s conclusion on Sept. 30, city and police department staff will analyze the surveys and feedback from its parking enforcement officers before choosing a vendor. City Finance Director Pauline Sumption said the goal is to install the meters and overhaul the downtown parking system throughout downtown by the end of 2019. The contract between the city and a meter vendor will require council approval, as will the ordinance changes to alter the current parking system regulations.
Addressing concerns that the meters will open users to the potential for identity theft or credit card scams, city technology officer Jim Gilbert said each meter has scam and skimming defense mechanisms and encrypts people’s information, which is not stored on the meters.
As for enforcement with the new meters, RCPD Lt. Cathy Bock said the new technology will help the department’s parking enforcement officers by notifying them of specific spots where a meter has expired. That new information will lead to the department’s shift from a route-based enforcement strategy to guided enforcement. In essence, instead of circling blocks and looking at meters, officers will go to the area where the technology tells them a meter has expired. All the meters being tested have sensor technology to track the use of parking spots, which the city and police department will use to better understand how the lots and garage are being used.
“The point is to get movement through the downtown area so people can park to utilize the downtown businesses,” Bock said.
The online survey can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/CH7Q3MN.