Parking meters updated with new technology in Oxford

New Smart Meters were installed recently all over the Uptown area to allow users to pay either with coins, credit card or a ParkMobile app on their phones. CONTRIBUTED

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New Smart Meters were installed recently all over the Uptown area to allow users to pay either with coins, credit card or a ParkMobile app on their phones. CONTRIBUTED

Parking meters have moved into the technological age with replacement of the ancient coin-only ones replaced by Smart Meters which will accept coins, credit cards and even a phone app in payment.

Changes to parking are not without some controversy, but Oxford Police Lt. Lara Fening said the new equipment and extended hours are intended to be another step toward accomplishing the same thing that has always been the goal of parking Uptown – pushing long-term parking off of High Street and creating turnover to help businesses.

Fening said there have been requests in recent years to modernize the parking operation to include credit card payment options. The coin-operated meters needed to be replaced as they had internal mechanisms that were 20 years old and the exterior housings were 50 years old.

“The old meters are not being produced and replacement parts are unavailable. It was the choice to get new meters and if you get new meters, do you get an archaic system? That just does not make sense,” Fening said.

The newly installed Smart Meters will accept coins and will also accept payment through the ParkMobile app. She said the app has the added advantage of being able to extend time at the meter remotely without having to go out to the meter.

The new meters and three methods of payment are not all that is new with parking in the Uptown business district. Parking on High Street will now go to $1 per hour and the time to pay for parking has been extended from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Meters on Church and Walnut streets will remain at 25 cents per hour to encourage people to use those streets, rather than parking long-term on High Street. That is aimed at employees of Uptown businesses who have been known to park for extended periods on High Street keeping a space from becoming available for customers, as well those who live Uptown and keep spaces occupied for long periods of time.

“This will push parking Uptown to side streets,” Fening said. “We do not want them parking on High Street to keep parking turning over.”

Fening said they did an occupancy study of parking spaces Uptown last October to determine heaviest usage times. Although it came during the pandemic, she said it was informative.

“October is, historically, the heaviest month of the year, but it would be to scale. I was surprised by the results. Dinnertime is the THE busiest time of the day, so it makes sense to extend the time to save spots (for people coming Uptown to eat),” she said. “We are open to a short-term parking space. We have discussed that. (Assistant City Manager) Jessica (Greene) talked to (businesses) about a space primarily for delivery and pick-ups. We’ll get there, but this had to be a first step.”

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