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Photo via the IPS Group
Photo via the IPS Group

What if you could pay for parking based on demand in that area?

It’s coming citywide soon. On Monday, the Seattle Department of Transportation announced that it was installing smart parking meters, the first ones going in Pioneer Square. The meters will be installed throughout the year into 2016, and you can find a full schedule here.

Why the smart meters? The city says the current meters were installed between 2004-10 and are outdated. The older technology the meters work on is also becoming obsolete: “Even the newest of the existing pay stations will no longer communicate when the AT&T 2G network is decommissioned,” the city states.

2G? That’s crazy talk. We didn’t even know that existed anymore.

The SDOT site states that the “project will replace 1,500 older pay stations…and retrofit 700 of the city’s newer pay stations with new IPS technology and components, saving the city approximately $2.5 million.”

As King 5 reports, the new pricing will fluctuate based on demand and time of day, with a minimum price of $1 per hour to maximum of $4 per hour, adjusted in 50 cent increments. “Take the area of Pioneer Square near the stadium, where crews installed the first meter,” King 5 states. “Pricing here used to be $3.00 an hour. It’s now $2.50 in the morning hours and $3.50 into the afternoon.”

The new meters will be contracted through the IPS Group, which has already supplied parking solutions in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The SDOT reports that the contract with IDS is worth about $20 million over seven years.

While IPS shows technology in its video below that can alert you via your smartphone to available parking spaces and allow you to add time to your meter, also via smartphone, this technology won’t be available in Seattle quite yet, according to Mike Estey, manager of parking programs for SDOT.

“Some cities have installed in-pavement sensors to provide real-time parking utilization data, in combination with their single-space meters or pay-by-space multi-space pay stations,” he tells us via email. “Because we do not mark individual spaces on street in Seattle, sensors would not be good solution for us. We are looking at using our parking transaction data, however, to generate predictive ‘heat maps’ to provide information about where parking is likely to be more available.”

Estey points out that Seattle does offer pay-by-phone parking if you’ve registered (a quick one-time process). On each pay station, a sign will provide the pay-by-phone zone code, which you can then use to sync to your phone to pay for parking.

Here’s a video from IPS about its smart parking meters:

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