Solar Brings Change for Parking Meters

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For city dwellers, parking meters are a sometimes annoying fact of life, requiring good timing to find an open spot, and then digging up the necessary spare change to feed the meter. But solar power is making the parking meter more user friendly—and making some cities more money in revenue.

The city of Los Angeles recently announced that after the addition of more than 38,000 smart meters throughout the city, they have brought in more revenue from credit cards than coins. According to the Los Angeles Times, smart meter credit card payments added up to $2.34 million in March 2013, out of $4.46 million total. City officials say that the ability to pay with credit cards has been a boon to drivers in terms of convenience.

Los Angeles worked with San Diego-based IPS Group and used the company’s smart meters. The machine, which can be put on a standard meter base, takes coins, credit cards, and smart cards. Solar energy and a rechargeable battery pack power the card payment system, tracking of real-time data, and wireless technology that can send information via a web-based management system. Solar power also cuts down on waste by eliminating the disposal of more than 40,000 standard meter batteries each year. After the first phase of meter installation was complete, the city’s parking revenue increased almost 50 percent on average.

Los Angeles isn’t the only major metropolis deploying solar-powered parking meters. Other cities that have made, or are making, the switch include Sacramento, Portland, Houston, and Brookline, Massachusetts. This month, Las Vegas began installing 233 multi-spot solar parking meters. Some of the meters bring new advents in technology, such as the ability to pay for parking with a smartphone or an app that tells drivers where to find available parking spots at any given time. It’s another way that solar power makes life today easier—and when you’re looking for a roll of quarters and an open parking space, anything that can make that easier is better.

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