February 24, 2009

In With the New: Solar Parking Meters

Some US cities are ditching traditional coin-slot parking meters for a new generation of "smart" card-operated ones.

In places like Charleston, S.C., the technology is "catching on in more and more cities as aging parking meters need to be replaced and new technology is being introduced," Randy Vanderhoof, executive director of the Smart Card Alliance, a non-profit association working to spread the use of smart-card technology, told USA Today.

During the first three days after the technology was introduced in Charleston, some 200 people put money onto the cards used to operate the parking meters, according to Hernan Peña, director of the Charleston's department of transportation.

"The nice thing is I don't have to carry change around in the car or in my purse," said Diana Shoaf, treasurer at The Citadel military college in Charleston. She told USA Today that the automated meters have helped her save money on lunchtime stops, because the meters give her a refund for unused parking time.

The meters include solar-powered technology that can process credit or debit cards, meters that can be paid by cell phone, and meters linked by wireless networks that can be remotely controlled and alert officers to parking violations, said Vanderhoof.

Ian Newberg, of Parkeon, a manufacturer of smart parking meters with North American headquarters in Moorestown, N.J., said meters cost anywhere between $7,000 and $10,000.

He mentioned the development of advanced electronics and solar-panel technology as factors driving the growth.


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