Downtown meter prices to double

Tucson presently has some of the cheapest parking meter prices in the country. $.50 cents an hour.

The Tucson City Council is likely to double those rates at the request of its parking arm, Parkwise.

"They will still be some of the cheapest," says Parkwise Director Donovan Durband.

But with the increase "we're forecasting to be in the black increasingly so over the next five years," he says.

But some motorists, like Frank Bustamante feels "it will scare people out of downtown."

Durband will present the five year financial plan for Parkwise to the council tomorrow.

In it is a proposal to junk the 1,000 old parking meters downtown, about 200 near the university gate and add an additional 300 which were taken out because of the streetcar construction.

In their place will be 1,500 new, smart meters which Parkwise would like to begin installing after the first of the year.

The smart meters will still use quarters like the old ones but there will be several other ways to pay like a credit card, SunTran Pass or CatPass.

But the technology also exists to install sensors in the parking spots which will change the way people use them.

In the old system, people pay for two hours of time but may use only and hour. The next car  uses the spot and the time left on the meter.

"I think everybody does that," one motorist says.

He has one hour and seven minutes left on the meter and has about an hour's worth of work to do.

"I'll check back to see if I need more," he says.

The new technology will be able to restart the meter running when a car pulls into the parking spot.

The sensors can also alert a customer when the clock is running out by text messaging.

"You get that text message on your phone so you can just extend the time by paying for an extra 15 minutes or something on your credit card," says Durband. "You don't risk getting a ticket."

Durband says he would rather see people pay on the meter than get tickets.

Some technology will also take a picture a car's license plate if the meter expires.

But the city is not sure what technology it will get.

"We don't know yet," Durband says.

But the new system will most likely make finding a place to park easier.

"We're most likely to have an app that will help you find available parking so you don't have to drive around in circles looking for a place to park," he says. "You'll be able to see though the app where spaces are available."

With several thousand students moving downtown, new businesses opening and the end of streetcar construction "things are definitely looking up," Durband says.