Park and swipe before you park and go

New meters

By Chris Casper, NewsNetNebraska

Instead of digging in her purse for quarters and then calculating how long she could park, 19-year-old UNL psychology major Jessica Miller quickly swiped her credit card on the downtown Lincoln parking meter last week and was on her way.

“I was really shocked to see the credit/debit card meters here now,” Miller said. “I have seen them in so many other places, like Chicago, Minnesota and Atlanta.”

Visitors to downtown Lincoln can now use their credit and debit cards to pay for metered parking. On March 11, the city began the new “Park & Go” program, installing over 1,400 new “smart” meters throughout downtown.

Scott Vrbka is Lincoln’s Public Works and Utilities Assistant Business Manager and now the city’s interim parking manager/accountant. He said the parking meters have helped substantially.

“It allows people to pay without coins. Haven’t we all had one of those moments when we realize we have no change?” Vrbka said. “Well, now those problems are eliminated.”

With these new meters comes a price increase.

As of March 11, the price per hour for downtown Lincoln parking increased from 50 cents to $1.00 per hour. The city is offering an incentive for those who choose to use the parking garages instead of the street: the first hour is free.

“Park in the garages—then you have the first hour free,” Vrbka said. “After that it is only a dollar every hour and you don’t have to worry about parking tickets.”

The purpose for this, Vrbka said, is to increase turnover for parking availability. The first-hour-free option in the garages works well for Lincoln’s businesses and drivers. The last time the price of parking was adjusted was 1995—18 years ago. Vrbka said the time was right for a change.

Students on campus have mixed emotions about the new system.

Scott Knight, a 21-year-old history major, said it will be a great help because it will increase both long and short-term parking availability. He said that finding parking after 10 a.m. is hard, if not impossible.

“If you thought you were going to find a spot then, forget it,” Knight said. “These new meters make it easier to find parking.”

Jill Mitchell, a 20-year-old nutrition major, thinks the new meters are a bad idea, and not only because they cost more. She fears that Lincoln downtown parking will only become worse.

“All that Park & Go has done is made it easier for people to ‘squat’ on parking spaces by using their credit or
debit card,” Michelle said. “If you had trouble with parking before you will have an even harder time now.”

Employees in some Lincoln businesses said they have seen a change in customer traffic since the meters were installed. Papa John’s employee John Skinner thinks business has gone up slowly due to these new meters.

“Business has not skyrocketed, but it (the new parking system) has allowed us to serve more customers,” Skinner said. “They are forced to pay more at our meters so they do not ‘squat’ in them.”

Vrbka said that if the parking in Lincoln continues to go well there might be plans to put in more of the new meters around the city. Eventually he thinks all of Lincoln’s parking meters will take credit/debit cards only and no coins.

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