Installation begins on 310 new parking meters downtown

Staff writerAugust 27, 2013 

Crews are boring holes in sidewalks in downtown Olympia, preparing them for new parking meters that will replace the 3-year-old parking pay stations.

The work started last week. Crews focused on east-west streets — Fourth Avenue, Fifth Avenue and Legion Way, said Karen Kenneson, business manager for Community Planning and Development.

By Monday, work had moved to north-south streets — Columbia Street, Capitol Way, Washington Street and Franklin Street, between Legion Way and State Avenue.

Once the holes are in place, which is expected by the end of next week, crews will start installing poles and housing. City staff will begin installing the meter housings after that and will be finished by the end of September, Kenneson said.

About 310 meters will be installed, and 20 kept as spares, for a project cost of about $406,000, Kenneson said. The city will incur additional costs over the next five years from credit card service fees, which Kenneson pegged at $179,000.

The Olympia City Council moved last year to jettison the pay stations after receiving complaints that they are hard to use and costly to maintain. Last month, they chose IPS Group Inc. of San Diego over a competing meter vendor after a monthlong trial of 10 meters from each vendor on city streets. The meters accept credit cards as well as coins.

After the meters go in, about 50 pay stations that the council borrowed $725,000 for in 2010 will be removed. They were placed in a zone that formerly offered free parking.

Council members at the time were trying to solve a problem of downtown employees taking up the free parking spaces, moving their cars every 90 minutes. Council members also wanted to raise money to build the first city-owned parking garage and eliminate competition with free parking spaces.

But plans for the garage were scrapped during the economic downturn, and the council focused on adding surface-parking options for employee parking.

The pay stations and surface parking solved the employee parking issue, but people complained that the pay stations were hard to use. They had a dim display and were difficult to navigate, especially when it was raining.

The city added signs and tweaked the displays, but complaints persisted.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@ theolympian.com @MattBatcheldor

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