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Taking It To the Streets

Boise parking meters get smart


Boise has quietly unveiled its next generation of parking meters. Fifty-eight new meters are expected to be in place in the coming weeks. The first ones have quietly appeared on Bannock Street, between Eighth Street and Capitol Boulevard. More are expected in Boise's BODO district.

"I think they're pretty spiffy looking," said Rob Centeno as he exited his SUV. "Wait, is there a 20-minute button?"

Centeno scanned the digital face of the "modern meter," as the city is calling them, looking for the button that gives a free 20 minutes of parking time.

"As long as there's a 20-minute button, I'm good," said Centeno.

A senior gentleman named Spencer Wood, however, struggled to find the button, giving up to duck inside the post office.

"I'm done with that," he said. "I can't figure this out."

The meters to be installed in BODO will be somewhat different. Parking spaces will be numbered and motorists will pay a central machine that serves multiple spaces.

"We've got these machines from May to June, maybe a bit into July," said Max Clark, Capital City Development Corporation's parking and facilities director. "We'll collect data on ease of use and what people think of them."

Some of the new meters (approximately 10 percent) will be accompanied by street sensors, designed to detect the presence of a vehicle.

"[The sensors] won't have a camera to detect when a car has come or gone," said Clark.

But they will know the vehicle's length of stay and keep button-happy residents from ducking out to repeatedly press the 20-minute button. The meters run on solar power.

"Our meter enforcement shuts off at 6 o'clock, so you can shut them off and actually save the batteries," said Craig Croner with Boise's Administrative Services Division.

The technology also offers an option to pay by cellphone.

"If you subscribe to the service, you will get a prompt on your cellphone, and you can pay for an extra hour," said Clark.