Drivers looking for a parking space to grab a quick coffee and pastry on a busy morning downtown have a good chance of frustration — or a ticket — when they approach the meter with a six-minute dime in hand, only to discover the coin slot taped over with a sticker reading “ParkMobile Only.”
In addition to coins, most of Montpelier’s 370 meters are designed to accept payment by credit card ($2.00/2-hour minimum) or the recently implemented ParkMobile app, according to Michelle Amaral, who has been working the parking beat for nearly 23 years. Montpelier’s aging parking meters are in line for replacement, but it is going to be gradual, she said.
Drivers may want to continue keeping an assortment of meter coins at hand. While ParkMobile provides the option of short-term parking, every transaction, large or small, incurs a transaction fee to the user of 45 cents, Amaral reported.
While 40 new 4G meters are expected to arrive for installation in early January, they will accept coins or ParkMobile only. The credit card option is going away. The current meters operate on a 2G technology that will soon be obsolete, Amaral explained. Another problem with the meters is that their solar recharging systems do not handle Vermont’s winter well. When the sun is low in the sky and the temperatures plummet, the batteries must be rotated frequently to keep the meters operational.
Although the police department is set up to recharge multiple batteries at a time, the frequency of needed battery changes during the winter has been increasingly problematic. “The worst is that the batteries are $35.00 each when they have to be replaced,” Amaral said.
“I love the kiosks,” Amaral said, noting that the kiosks in the lots off Main Street and along Stone Cutters Way will continue to accept credit card payments. Permitted parking in the kiosk-managed lots is for periods up to nine hours.
Currently, the concentration of meters that will accept ParkMobile only are primarily located on Barre Street, Amaral said. As older meters fail and when the 2G service becomes obsolete, “the credit card slots will be covered with a sticker explaining the change,” she explained.
By Cassandra Hemenway
Visiting family over Thanksgiving weekend in my old stomping grounds, Northampton, Mass., led to insights about parking meters. Imagine the joy when, on a Saturday morning foray into town for coffee and Wi-Fi, I found a rare empty parking spot around the corner from my destination.
Joy subsided to dismay when I approached the parking meter to find a “ParkMobile Only” notice.
I adjusted my phone’s settings to allow for the use of data and downloaded the ParkMobile app. Having not planned for the inevitability of deciphering small print, reading glasses lay buried in a purse hidden beneath a blanket in the back seat. I squinted at the app trying to read the tiny, blurred type.
After some time, it became clear that I’d have to upload banking information. I toggled between my banking app and the parking app, copying and pasting all the requisite numbers, then put on my biggest fake smile pretending this wasn’t exasperating as all get out.
Next up: the car. I managed to figure out that I had to enter the details about my vehicle — the usual make/model/year/license plate number. Got that done, brushed aside Big Gummit conspiracy theories, and figured, “OK, ready to go.”
Nope. Now I had to know how to use the actual parking app. I almost called my Gen Z kiddo to walk me through it, but I’d never live that down, so I stuck with it until I pressed enough random buttons to see the next step: input the numerical location of the parking meter.
Fifteen minutes later, it looked as though I had done everything the app required, although nothing on the actual meter gave it away. As I ticked through various boxes and entry points on the app, eventually a text dinged, announcing I’d successfully registered (or whatever they call it in app-land) and the full two hours would cost 13 cents.
This was almost as much fun as finding a QR code on a restaurant table instead of a menu.