Back-seat Driver: ‘Smart’ parking meters planned for downtown Sacramento

If the Sacramento City Council says yes Tuesday, expect to see 4,000 “smart” parking meters arrive on downtown sidewalks next year.

They look at lot like the current gunmetal gray meters. But, unlike the existing meters, which accept only quarters, the new ones will accept all coins, other than pennies, as well as Visa and Mastercard.

Eventually, parkers may be able to “feed” the meter using a payment app on their smartphones and receive an electronic alert from the meter a few minutes before time is about to expire. The meters also can alert city parking officials if the meter is jammed or broken.

Parking officials say the changes will increase revenue. That’s because people who pay with credit cards often “pad” their time, paying for more time than they think they need, so they don’t have to come running back early.

Authorities say they also think the new meters will reduce the number of people getting hit with parking tickets. Some parkers now don’t feed the meter at all, choosing instead to dash into a store or office with their fingers crossed they can get back before a parking officer shows up. With more payment options, fewer people will take that risk, parking officials say.

The city plans to spend $4 million from its parking fund for the new meters. City interim parking manager Matt Eierman said the time is right because existing meters are old and break down frequently – and because “people are demanding this technology.”

The city will install the first new meters in downtown, Old Sacramento and midtown. In some cases, they’ll switch out the unpopular green pay stations, and move some of those to areas where the meter time period is longer than the typical two hours or less downtown.

Ultimately, city officials say they may buy an additional 2,000 smart meters to install in core areas that currently aren’t metered, such as around Richards Boulevard. City consultants also are studying whether the market will allow the city to increase meter rates, or even decrease rates in some areas. Officials did not give a timetable for a conclusion.

Broadway bridge

Sacramento and West Sacramento plan to build two more bridges linking the cities over the Sacramento River. One will be just north of the I Street Bridge. The other is planned south of downtown, connecting at Broadway. Officials had been referring to that span as the “south market” bridge to avoid riling up residents of nearby neighborhoods, in case the bridge ends up not being built there.

No more. Sacramento Councilman Steve Hansen told staffers it’s now the Broadway Bridge. “Calling things what they are helps people understand you’re not trying to trick them,” he said.

The bridge will be at about levee level, with space for pedestrians, bicyclists, transit and cars. When it will be built remains a mystery. The two cities do not have the money yet.