Saturday, November 28, 2015         


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Smart meters a smart move


Following successes in other cities, Honolulu will launch a project installing high-tech parking meters in Chinatown by the end of this year, allowing drivers to use credit cards to park. The plan is to replace meters throughout urban Honolulu by fall 2012, with projections that they will more than pay for themselves. It is a smart move.

The modern parking meters can be fed from afar by credit cards and mobile phones as well as coins or bills. They could help a driver pull over to locate empty stalls or assign the job to a passenger looking at a map by smartphone. A network of sensors will detect whether a vehicle is arriving, stationary or departing a parking stall.

The days of endlessly circling a block to wait for someone to surrender a parking place, then grabbing a fistful of coins to feed the meter, soon may be history. Studies show that 30 percent of urban traffic consists of drivers looking for an open space.

Several companies compete in manufacture of the meters. Honolulu's Chinatown project will be put up for bid, including the $500 cost of a meter. The winner will be required to pay all upfront costs and guarantee that the city receives at least the same $3.2 million level of annual parking meter revenue for the first two years of the city-wide meters.

In a pilot program in San Diego last year, new solar-powered meters took in 11 percent more money than comparable meters, while tickets that were issued declined by 44 percent.

The Chinatown project would involve installation of 232 new meters. Nearly 2,780 on- and off-street meters would follow throughout Central Oahu if the project is as successful as it has been in other cities. Done right, there's no reason why it shouldn't be.

The technology is two decades old but has only recently found its way to U.S. cities. In the past two years, the modern meters have been installed in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver and Washington, D.C. Portland, Ore., which was an early user, brought in $2 million more in parking revenue from 2002 to 2005.

In most of those cities, rates were increased, and Honolulu is about to do the same. A bill before the City Council would charge $1 an hour for the meters in Chinatown and would generate more parking meter revenue from city parks; it would increase parking at Kapiolani Park from 50 cents an hour from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., to $1 an hour at any part of the day.

Mayor Peter Carlisle revealed his plan to replace city parking meters with high-tech versions in announcing his budget proposal in March. Details revealed late last week are a welcome step toward needed replacement of outdated meters.

Honolulu, welcome to the 21st century.

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