Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Nashville parking meter rates go up

Tennessesan It will take more coins to park in downtown Nashville. The hourly charge on a parking meter is being raised to $1.50 from $1 in the central business district, from First to 12th streets. The charge will go to $1 from 75 cents in the outer area, between 12th and 31st streets. The Traffic & Parking Commission approved the rate increase Monday with one dissenting vote from Kathy Austin. The rate increase becomes legal within a week, but it will take months to adjust and put new signs on each of the city's 1,864 parking meters, said Metro Public Works staff. The changeover will begin in the outer areas and move in to the core. The new rates won't apply at a meter until it has been adjusted and marked with the new prices. The parking charge is being increased to encourage people not to park at meters for hours or all day. Metro has increased meter rates by only a quarter in the past 20 years. "It's a lot cheaper to park at a meter than a surface lot," Public Works traffic staffer Chip Knauf told parking commission members. Surface lots downtown charge between $2 and $9 an hour. That means that 90 percent of parking meters are occupied at any time, which leads to frustration and fuel use as motorists circle and circle looking for a space. Meters may go green More change is likely ahead for parking meters. Rather than one meter per parking spot, the city could embrace technology that would place one meter per block. Motorists would pay at the central meter for the numbered space they occupy. The meters would accept credit and debit cards as well as coins and bills. The LUKE meter is solar-powered and uses a recyclable battery that is changed every three years. A single meter has a battery that must be trashed after six months. LUKE's installation costs are about twice what a single-meter system would be per parking space, but it pays that back in lower operating and maintenance costs, Public Works staff said Monday. The LUKE system is used in cities such as Chicago and Seattle. A similar "pay for space" system is in use in Nashville's private lots. The first street location for LUKE will be on Deaderick Street between the courthouse and Legislative Plaza.

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