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New meters could pay for themselves within two years

Saturday, February 2, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:57 p.m. CST, Wednesday, February 6, 2013

COLUMBIA — Installing 117 parking meters downtown that would be able to accept credit cards would cost about $60,000, but the meters would pay for themselves in a little more than two years, according to a report by the Downtown Parking Task Force.

A proposal to do just that will go to the Columbia City Council on Monday night. If the council moves forward with the idea, the meters would be installed along Ninth Street from Broadway to University Avenue and along the 900 block of East Broadway.

The task force is asking the council to find the best possible vendor from which to buy the meters.

After a 90-day test run of the new meters from March 14 to June 30, 2012, the task force found monthly revenue from the meters increased by more than 23 percent. If that projection holds, the meters would pay for themselves in about two years, even if maintenance costs are factored in.

The testing meters will remain on loan from IPS Group Inc.

The proposal includes two alternative plans. One is to purchase 84 meters to cover the Ninth Street area for $42,000. The other is to purchase 33 meters to cover the 900 block of East Broadway for $18,000. In both cases, the report concludes it would still take a little more than two years for the meters to pay for themselves.

The council established a Downtown Parking Task Force in July 2011 to review current meter technology and to recommend possible improvements. The task force authorized an on-street test from March 14 to June 30, 2012, and made its formal recommendation Sept. 13.

“The principal benefit is convenience,” Skip Walther, a member of the Downtown Community Improvement District Board and former chairman of the task force, said. “A lot of people don’t carry enough coins to feed the meter. Most people seem to have credit cards handy.” 

Walther said that although most of the feedback was positive, some people complained that the meters were not compatible with the city's EZ Park cards. He said the task force recommended the council make a “strong” effort to find a way to solve that problem.

The task force tested multispace meters, but discontinued them two months into the testing process because they repeatedly broke down.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.


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