Nov 19, 2014

Pesky Solar Parking Meters

Location: 731A 8th Street Southeast, Washington, DC 20003, USA
Solar-powered, single-space meters by Navy Yard in SW
You can see the mini solar cells under the glass
I'm not a driver and even I hate parking meters. However, this curbside denizen has an interesting evolution.

The first parking meter, the Black Maria was installed in 1935. For 50 years the mechanical version (inserting a coin to begin the timer)  dominated. In the mid-1980s appeared the digital version. This allowed for greater precision and different payment methods.

To give a sense of scale, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are more than 105 million commercial parking spaces in this country and 5 million parking meters. If you're interested in learning more fun facts, check out an "Overview of the U.S. Parking Industry" by the International Parking Institute.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) manages some 17,000 metered parking spaces. A few years ago, DDOT installed 1,150 solar-powered, single-space meters. The installation and conversion is easy. The old head is removed and replaced. The pole is left in place. According to DDOT, "...the smart' meters alert DDOT and the contractor via text message or e-mail if the meter is malfunctioning." This seems like a quick and efficient upgrade. However, I know there are advances like "In-Vehicle Parking Meters" so I am by no means proposing that the solar parking meter is the option to pursue.

For those reading this blog, I'd like to learn about experiences with solar-powered parking meters and other solutions.