The city of Worcester, Massachusetts is testing two smart meters to determine the feasibility of a smart parking system. The pilot program meters are essentially meter/kiosk hybrids, incorporating parking services with a touchscreen displaying local news headlines.
While the majority of parking meters now use solar energy, these smart meters are hardwired to electricity allowing for greater display functions and graphics. Along with the news, they can also display alerts – such as a snow ban – and a video demonstration of how to use the meter.
The meters aid in optimizing the generation and collection of parking fees for the city. Sensors in the parking spaces can tell when a vehicle has left the spot, prompting the meter to reset, even if there is time remaining. While not currently activated, a camera in the meter can photograph the license plates of illegally parked vehicles to be sent to the parking enforcement office for review and a citation.
Like any new technology, there is a learning curve involved. The test project has received mixed reviews from users – credit cards haven’t always worked, people don’t like using them, some find them unattractive. The city of Worcester states that such citizen feedback is a very important part of the process.
“The use of technology is what we’re really getting at,” said Michael Brennan, head of parking services for the Department of Public Works and Parks. “That’s been our goal, our mission, to continually seek out new devices and new technology that the customer will find customer friendly, and find easy to use.”