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The future of Seattle paid parking is in your hands with 7 trial pay stations

Trial-Pay-Station-MapDriving around Belltown to try out seven different parking pay station sounds like the worst scavenger hunt ever, so call it a civic mitzvah. The city needs to replace its aging pay station system, so the Seattle Department of Transportation has installed seven different pay stations for the driving public to give a whirl. The model stations are all located on 4th Ave between Stewart and Bell.

“We want feedback on the look and feel, if things on the screen make sense and can be read easily,” said Mike Estey, SDOT’s manager of parking operations. After you use one of the new pay stations, fill out a survey on your experience here.

The trial pay stations were installed February 14th and will be up through March 14th. SDOT plans to start replacing older machines this summer and have the system entirely revamped by 2016 at a cost of $25-$30 million.

SDOT promises the new system will be more reliable and more adept at handling complex rate structures, but we doubt the machines will live up to their spaceship names, like IPS Freedom, IPS Revolution, Digital Luke II, and Parkeon StelioPal Retrofit. 

The new stations will be equipped faster modems which Estey said should mean less dropped credit card transactions over the system’s cellular network. The days of card-sucking pay stations will also come to an end as all the new ones will use a swipe card reader. Sticky-back receipts are likely to stay, although Estey said most of the new machines can be configured to print a regular paper ticket to be put on the dash. And a new backend will improve alerts to SDOT when machines breakdown, Estey said.

All of the proposed new stations will also come equipped with RFID readers. That means pay-by-ORCA card could be possible in the new system, but would depend on SDOT and Sound Transit figuring out the backend. SDOT also says the trial meters will better integrate pay-by-phone features, which were finally rolled out city-wide last year.

Seattle has around 2,200 pay stations that control paid parking for around 12,000 spaces.

CHS previously reported on pay-by-phone features for paid parking that were finally rolled out in July. For $0.35 per transaction, parkers can use the service’s smartphone app or call a toll-free number to pay for parking on Seattle’s streets. You can also set it up to send a message when your time is about to expire.

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9 thoughts on “The future of Seattle paid parking is in your hands with 7 trial pay stations

    • Based on the article, it will use card swipe (mag strip) rather than chip and PIN. I wish the US would adopt this capability as other countries have had for years.

      Personally, I’d rather pay by smartphone (as an option) so I can avoid using a card altogether.

      • The machines must support card swipe,as few of us in the USofA have a chip and pin card yet. And chip and pin cards will also have a mag stripe, so could still be used.

        The main reason for supporting the chip and pin would be for the city to avoid charge backs from people asserting that their card was stolen. I would think that this is a small enough problem wrt paying for parking that it would probably not be worth considering until these new pay stations are ready to be replaced.

  1. The pay stations are, what, about 10 years old, at most? I cannot believe the City is spending 30 million to replace all of them. I know there are problems with the current stations, but why can’t they be fixed, or upgraded? Do we really need the latest technology?

  2. The city of Denver has clever digital parking meters. From a distance, they look like the 50-year-old mechanical ones, but up close, you realize that they’re digital. They still take coins, but accept credit card swipes as well, and have simple numeric and red/green LED displays visible from both the sidewalk and the adjacent parking space. Basically, if the green LED is on, parking has been pair for in the adjacent space; if it’s red, it has not. I think there’s yellow to indicate malfunctions and a close look will tell you how much time is left and so forth.

    Denver’s meters are simple (no complicated keypads, no walking around the neighborhood to find a machine), they’re robust (they handle snow and cold temps, hot temps in the summer, etc) and they’ve got to be cheaper than Seattle’s ginormous monstrosities.