St. Paul to convert parking meters for more efficient use

St. Paul city officials will start converting the city’s parking meters Monday to eliminate the use of nickels and dimes and allow the use of debit cards.
The project, which will cost about $20,000, is expected to be finished March 15, said John Maczko, a St. Paul traffic operations engineer.
Minneapolis is currently using the debit card system for its parking meters.
Once the debit cards are available, motorists will be able to purchase them from dispensing machines in Minneapolis and St. Paul. While the same card can be used in both cities, separate accounts of up to $100 per city must be maintained.
The cards will withdraw money in quarter increments. Once the card is put into the meter, the motorist can take out the card when enough time is purchased.
In addition to accepting debit cards, the meters will also accept the Sacagawea $1 coin.
St. Paul officials decided to eliminate the use of nickels and dimes to reduce spending on labor.
The meters have to be programmed for nickels, dimes and quarters, which is labor-intensive, Maczko said. Also, he added, nickels and dimes purchase very little time on the meters.
“So from a maintenance viewpoint, we were spending a lot of time without much benefit,” Maczko said.
St. Paul originally converted the city’s meters to electronic parking meters four years ago to reduce maintenance.
The original meters needed winding two to three times every week. In addition, the mechanical meters jammed frequently and the parts needed regular oiling.
“They took a lot of tender loving care,” Maczko said.
Today’s electronic meters run on battery power, which only need to be replaced once a year. Also, if a meter malfunctions, the motherboard is replaced, saving maintenance time.
— Patrick Hayes