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Boise Prepares to Enhance Smart Meter Technology


Since December 2011, the city of Boise has been working on a plan to make parking meters smarter, which would include installing solar-powered meters that accept payment via credit card or smartphone apps, and pavement-embedded sensors that monitor whether a car is occupying a particular parking space.

There have been more than a few roadblocks along the way, not least of which were a series of lawsuits and counter-lawsuits in 2014 between Boise and the Ada County Highway District, the latter which has authority over Boise's streets. The city also debated whether it should increase parking meter rates and extend metered hours into evenings and Saturdays, but the City Council shelved those proposals in July 2013.

Now, Boise officials said they're back on track after crafting an operating agreement with ACHD over the sensors and are moving forward with this year's installation of approximately 920 credit card-enabled meters. The city has even selected Boise-based advertising agency Oliver Russell to develop a marketing campaign. Still to come, city officials said, is the long-promised smartphone app, which will allow motorists to pay for parking and get alerts when time is about to expire. The city also wants to let drivers who have imbibed too much to drive to leave their vehicles in a parking space overnight and pre-pay for the meter, which would expire at 8 a.m. the following morning.

And the city may still raise parking meter rates. In a memo to Jade Riley, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter's chief of staff, city staff insisted a "demand-based rate structure" would allow for higher rates for so-called "premium" parking spaces in the downtown core, adding a reminder about how hourly parking meter rates have not been increased for 15 years. A proposed meter bump would also "encourage long-term parking in off-street infrastructures," aka garages.

None of the proposals have been formalized yet, and the City Council will again have the final say on the future of the new meters.