Portland installs electronic, solar-powered parking meters

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PORTLAND — Drivers will soon be able to pay for on-street parking with credit and debit cards in parts of the city, thanks to new electronic meters being installed this week.

The parking division began placing 18 solar-powered pay stations throughout the city on Monday. Like other, mechanical meters in Portland, the new pay stations will charge 25 cents for 15 minutes, and will have a two-hour maximum. Credit and debit card payments will have a $1 minimum, and coins will also be accepted.

After paying, drivers will receive a paper receipt that they must place face up on the dashboard of their vehicle. The receipts have the date and time of expiration printed on them in large print.

Half of the initial 18 electronic meters slated for installment this week are on Commercial Street, from the east side of the Custom House to Cross Street. There will be two stations on Fore Street near the Sebago Brewing Co. restaurant, three on Federal Street between Lincoln Park and the state courthouse, and one on Free Street outside the Children’s Museum.

In the West End, there will be one station each on Bramhall, Chadwick, and Brackett streets near Maine Medical Center. 

The initial 18 pay stations are part of a pilot program, Portland parking manager John Peverada said. If they prove popular, the city may install more, he said, although the parking department does not have plans to gauge approval other than by noting complaints and compliments via unsolicited calls.

“The purpose of doing this is to improve the customer experience and customer satisfaction,” Peverada said.

The electronic meters will benefit drivers because the receipts will also be good for any metered parking space in the city, Peverada said, which will allow drivers to move to new spaces without paying for another meter. He noted that with the receipts, business drivers will be able to claim parking on their expense reports.

Metered parking hours will remain enforced between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., but the new machines will be on 24 hours a day. Drivers will be able to pay for and get receipts before 9 a.m., but the start time will not be any earlier than that – so a driver who starts work at 8 a.m. can pay for two hours of parking upon arrival but will not have to move their vehicle until 11 a.m, Peverada said.

Both drivers and the city will benefit from an increase in parking space in parallel-parking zones metered by the new machines. While the old meters dictated a specific number of parking spaces on any given street, the number of cars that can park in areas areas metered by the new machines will be determined by the size of the vehicles, potentially fitting more than before.

The parking department plans to remove the old metal meters replaced by electronic ones from city sidewalks, resulting in neater streetscapes that will be easier to clear of snow in winter, Peverada said. 

The city bought the electronic meters from Cale Parking Systems USA using $175,000 set aside in last year’s Capital Improvement Program. The company has installed similar meters in Concord, Manchester, and Portsmouth N.H., as well as Baltimore, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis. 

Andrew Cullen can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or acullen@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @ACullenFore.

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Dan Culliton, an employee of Cale Parking Systems USA, installs a solar electronic parking meter Monday on Commercial Street in Portland.

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