The Norman Transcript

October 23, 2012

Norman parking going high tech

By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Leftover Campus Corner TIF funds could foot most of the bill for a new high-tech parking system on the Corner. Like the Downtown Merchants Association, the Campus Corner Merchants Association has been grappling with parking issues and a need for better customer access.

In both cases, high-tech meters could provide part of the solution.

Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary and City Traffic Engineer Angelo Lombardo have been working with the Campus Corner Merchants Association to gather information on a possible parking management system for the Corner that would be similar in features for metered system planned for the recently expanded Downtown parking lot.

“The goal here is to be a little more efficient with our parking,” O’Leary said. “This is our first attempt at modern meters that can use credit cards and cell phones.”

O’Leary and Lombardo presented information on the meters at Monday’s City Council Community Planning and Transportation committee meeting.

Lombardo said the city’s proposal includes multispace meters, hand held enforcement devices, and parking space vehicle sensors. The enforcement devices could be used at the Downtown parking lot as well as on Campus Corner if the same system or a similar were adopted.

Each pay station would be shared by 10-12 spaces. Parking slots would likely be marked with a numbered sign to identify the space and customers could use a variety of payment methods including tokens, credit cards and even a cell phone.

The enforcement tool is a handheld unit that dispenses the citation in the case of a violation. The sensor communicates with the parking meter unit to track occupancy. If one customer leaves, the next customer does not get to use the left over time.

“Basically we’re looking at a three component system,” Lombardo said.

Campus Corner merchants would be able to validate the machines to provide a customer refund. The system is “easy to reprogram if the management strategy changes,” Lombardo said.

In other words, hourly rates could be easily changed.

The system is not cheap. If the multispace meters are used, the Corner would need 13 units according to a survey of the area. Those would cost $10,000 each, or $130,000. Parking space sensors would be needed for 159 spaces for a total of $51,675 and installation and training would come to $6,000 for a total system cost of $187,675.

Maintenance and operating costs would run about $5,000 a year — an amount that should be easily covered by the parking charges.

Campus Corner Merchants are exploring a different option of individual smart meters. The merchants want to be able to put signs at special commercial loading zones and make those meters refuse to accept parking at certain times of the morning.

Campus Corner TIF money is available in the amount of $133,724 to pay for the lions share of the project. The timelines for the new meters would be six to 12 months down the road, allowing city leadership to see how the smart meters work at the Downtown lot. The Corner would probably see implementation of the new meters in the summer of 2013.

“We believe the pay by space system would be used,” said Lombardo of the multispace meters. He said people would be familiar with the meters in both the Downtown and Campus Corner area.

“We believe the operating and maintenance cost is higher if you go with the individual meter,” Lombardo said. “This (multispace meters) is the trend nationally for cities that have meters ...most are using the station.”

While the Downtown merchants want to keep parking rates low to see how things go, charging as little as 25 cents per hour, the Campus Corner merchants want $1 per hour or more.

“That’s quite a change than we’ve had in the past,” O’Leary said.

“Our issues are different from downtown,” said Randy Powell, from the Campus Corner Merchants Association. “Our issues are with employees and students. They can currently park at the Presbyterian church for $1 per day.”

He said Campus Corner merchants support the single pole covering two spaces.

“There are 156 meters currently on Campus Corner,” Powell said.

The estimate for installation of the single meters is approximately $126,000 which is less than the multispace system. Maintenance and operating costs on the single station meters are higher, however.

“We feel pretty strongly about going with the single meters and staying with that,” Powell said.

He said revenue from meters would offset the cost. Currently, the Corner has 90 percent occupancy in metered spaces. If that were maintained under the new system, it would generate revenue in excess of $400,000, he said.

Powell said merchants want to charge $1 for the first hour and $2 for next two hours... or they offer the first 30 minutes free for people who just want to make a quick pickup, with anything over 30 minutes charging $1 and then $2 per hour after that.

O’Leary said the beauty of the modern metered system is that the rates can be changes to adjust to a parking strategy that best serves the needs of the area.

Lombardo said may other cities, including Tulsa have these types of meters and have used them for years.

Joy Hampton366-3539jhampton@normantranscript.com

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