Jackson’s plans to install new parking meters downtown appear to be moving forward slightly behind schedule.
However, promises that new meters would be in place this summer still will seem to come true.
For Northsiders, the news means that they won’t have to dig around for spare change to park downtown.
The meters will be part of a pilot program designed to determine the best way to modernize downtown parking, and will allow people to pay with coins, credit cards and smartphone apps.
Not only will the meters be more user friendly; they also will promise to generate more money for the capital city. Meter revenues have dropped by almost half since 2015.
The Lumumba administration had hoped to install the devices late in the spring, but, like most things, plans were put on hold by coronavirus.
“The had to be shipped from overseas,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said. “The only delay was coronavirus.”
He didn’t say where the meters were being made, or where they would ship from.
The meters are supposed to arrive by July 27 and will be installed beginning August 3, according to Planning Director Jordan Hillman.
Phase one of the pilot program includes installing 150 meters along East Capitol Street, Mill Street, Lamar Street and other downtown areas.
The meters will include software that will track space occupancy, alert city officials when devices need maintenance and allow people to pay remotely.
Jackson brought on Duncan Parking Technologies/CivicSmart in October to install the devices.
The city also hired Heartland Payment Systems to process credit card payments.
“The company we’re using actually bought out the company that had our old meters, so we’re able to reuse the housing we have,” Jackson Chief Administrative Officer Robert Blaine said.
City staffers will be trained to install the new meter software, which will be located in the existing meter casings. The exterior of the casings will be modified slightly to allow customers to make credit card payments, he explained.
“It will be a pretty simple replacement. You open the meter, take out the current insides and put in the new internal components,” he said.
The Duncan contract is not to exceed $110,000. Heartland’s contract will be funded through convenience fees, tacked on to credit card payments. According to the city documents, the group will charge patrons an average of 25 cents per credit card transaction and 35 cents per smartphone transaction.
Jackson has been studying installing new meters for years.
A study conducted by Downtown Jackson Partners in 2009 showed the city had 1,020 metered parking spaces in the downtown business improvement district.
The study showed that during peak hours, about 929 of those spaces were filled. However, parking meters were rarely used. Of the vehicles evaluated on the day of the study, 77 percent of drivers had not put money in meters or had allowed time to expire on the devices.
Meters were updated in 1999 and 2000, when Jackson went from mechanical to electronic devices.
Today, it is not uncommon to find meters with coin slots that are jammed, or meters that are no longer operational.
Those parking meters have translated into fewer dollars for the already cash-strapped city. In 2015, the meters generated $182,524 in use fees, about twice as much as the devices brought in in fiscal year 2019, when revenues fell to $95,188.