Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lovely Rita...

Since Brendan mentioned his waning optimism about the promise of bike racks on existing parking meters in the 'Beat, I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss the big changeover happening now on the streets of Hartford. Some of you may have noticed the new parking pay-stations appearing all over downtown. That's one pictured there on the right. Some of them are active now, others are still wrapped up in plastic, waiting to be unleashed into service. The city's parking authoritah is calling the system "pay and display." Isn't that all catchy and rhymey? Very Ron Popeil.

So say goodbye to all the existing parking meters. Why are they doing this? What's in it for them? Well:

  1. No more set parking spots. Cram as many cars as you can onto the street and charge 'em all. Everybody buy Smartcars!
  2. No more losing money by having someone find an unexpired meter and squatting on the previous person's quarter.
  3. Finally cover the few streets downtown that didn't have meters installed.
  4. A central point to post parking regulations and hours.
  5. Central collection spots for the meter people. Now all they have to do is ride by on their segways checking dashboards. All while probably writing erroneous tickets when it snows because they can't see your dash.
  6. Fewer things at risk of vandalism.
  7. Hey, these puppies are solar! "Look at us, we're so green."
  8. Networked, so the robots can report back to the mothership about how much they're raking in.
  9. 25 cent minimum, which gives you 15 minutes. No more cheapskates looking to park for a nickel. This also means more dimes for a brother to spare.
And I guess the benefits for the citizens who use them: your ticket is good even if you move your car, and you can now use plastic if you don't have any change. Yay, credit! There's nothing like using the vast Visa/MasterCard network to charge 25 cents. No bill readers, but I'm betting that those mechanisms break easily when exposed to the elements.

Basically, I'm ambivalent about the new machines, other than the fact that some of them are right in the middle of sidewalks now. I'm for progress and making things more convenient to draw people into the city.

But, back to the original point, what becomes of the old meter posts? Hm. Maybe a cool city like Seattle has some ideas?

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Bicycle Program conducted a pilot program in 2005, installing 11 "Bicycle-Circle" racks on meter posts in Capitol Hill that otherwise would have been removed as the neighborhood transitioned to an electronic based Paystation Parking system. Working closely with Creative Metalworks, the Bicycle Program staff refined the design of the rack into a product suitable for installation on public sidewalks.

Retrofitting just a few of these posts every block is easy, and this changeover presents the ideal time and opportunity to do so. It would make Hartford a friendlier and more welcoming place to be.

Bahhhhh...Who am I kidding? I'm sure they'll just rip them all out. Scrap metal is worth something in the new economy.


interstatement said...

One flaw in the pay & display system that struck me upon first seeing them downtown is that there is no provision for open vehicles. Though they comprise a small percentage of the vehicular population, drivers of motorcycles, Jeeps, old British roadsters and VW Things will have no secure means to prove their parking privilege. My bicycle is my primary daily transportation, but my scooter and motorcycle are good fuel-sipping alternatives when greater distances need to be covered in shorter times. I have been ticketed for parking a scooter on a sidewalk downtown before. They're snippy about that.

I really like the meter-to-bike rack conversion. We should first get really drunk and cut the tops off like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke.

Brendan said...

That's the idea. The Parking Authority told me that's what they were going to do with the poles. I went around downtown with a spray can and marked the ones that made sense to convert into bike racks. It was supposed to happen in July.

Musegal said...

anyone read the letter to the editor in the courant this morning on the failed bike lanes in hartford??


chillwill said...

Cool Hand Luke! i love that movie.

many other cities use the ticket system. i had a soft-top jeep and an old series landrover for many years, rarely with windows, and never had an issue with them tickets...but was always a bit worried waaay in the back of my mind.

but motorcycles....what are ya supposed to do?!?!