High-tech turns parking into profits

Billed as 'convenient,' new meters take cities by storm

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In cities from Chicago to Austin to Berkeley, old-style mechanical parking meters are rapidly being replaced by a new type known as a multispace meter. If your town doesn't have them yet, you'll be getting them soon enough. But unless you work for your city government, you may not find this much cause to celebrate. Cities like to bill the new multispace units as being more convenient for consumers, but experience indicates otherwise. To park in a multispace meter zone, you walk from your car to the meter, which can be some distance down the block. Once there, you buy a paper permit imprinted with the expiration time. Then you go back to your car to put the permit in the windshield, and finally go on your merry way. Other than offering the dubious advantage of paying with a credit card, the added rigmarole involved in using multispace meters makes it plain that any increase in convenience accrues to city parking departments and not to the public. For one, multispace meters ...