DOWNTOWN SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - There are about 1,000 parking meters in Downtown Sioux Falls and 250 of them are smart meters. In other words, those meters take credit cards.
"We've tried to put those in areas that are utilized the majority of the day," said Matt Nelson, the public parking facilities manager for Sioux Falls. "So probably 80% or more of the day they are used, we will put a smart meter there."
It costs $1 per hour to park at a smart meter and $0.75 per hour for all others. The meters bring in about $480,000 per year.
"That meter money is turned around, and it's used to pay the staff to enforce the meters, our maintenance staff, it pays for the maintenance, the programs, the software," explained Nelson.
Meters need maintenance because they break like anything else. They also need to be cleaned. The city gains about $120,000 in profit from them, which isn't a great margin. But Nelson said there's no such thing as free parking.
"The issue is creating turnover downtown. We want to keep the employees, the large amount of residents that we've had moving downtown off of those meters, where customers need them to come downtown to shop and eat in the downtown area," said Nelson.
Plus, the money earned by them is used to invest in parking and improvements downtown. This summer, the 1st Avenue parking ramp will receive a facelift on the outside.
"It will be more for the public. It will be all the sidewalk and streetscape," explained Nelson. "We're adding some art there, adding a pet relief station there for some of the residents that live downtown."
In the past, the profit has also paid for more smart meters. Those cost about $500 a piece. Drivers won't see any more smart meters replacing the old ones though. Experts that sell the meters recommend cities convert 18% of their meters to accept credit cards. Sioux Falls is already at 25%.
Nelson also said that our parking system in downtown is supported by the users. In other states, like North Dakota, parking is free but the tickets are more expensive if you park too long in a time zone.