Public Parking: Making every cent count - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Public Parking: Making every cent count

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They have lingered in the downtown area for nearly 80 years. Often times, when we think about them, we're less than enthused.

We're talking about parking meters. But have you ever wondered where your money actually goes beyond the coin slot?

Downtown, every cent counts, as the meters sit patiently waiting for you. If you don't feed them, a small yellow surprise will appear on your windshield.

"Our tickets have been consistent from year-to-year and we're writing anywhere from 36,000 to 40,000 tickets a year. 18% of those are warnings. It's pretty consistent," Public Parking Director Matt Nelson said.

Nelson explains the meters are here to increase turnover downtown. They've been around since the 1930s and all 1,000 of them are here to stay.

"The meters bring in anywhere from $250-300,000 annually in change. It's a fair amount of money but it covers about the cost to maintain the system. We make a slight profit there but we use it to reinvest into new meters, new technology for the future," Nelson said.

Speaking of new technology, and the future, the city of Sioux Falls is about to introduce 185 brand new parking meters called 'smart meters' which allows you to use your credit card.

"You essentially just insert the credit card into the meter. It's like an ATM, you select your time, how much time you want, you hit 'OK' and it processes your transaction. it works just like putting change into a meter," Nelson said.

The meters aren't cheap either with one costing right around $500.

"We bring in another $200,000 annually in fines on the tickets. The staff enforces it goes back into the system," Nelson said.

It's not just the drivers that call them a hassle, a few other business owners aren't so fond of them either. While those who oppose the meters declined an interview, the owner of Mrs. Murphy's Irish Gifts on Phillips Avenue said the opposite.

"It's a welcoming statement to welcome them downtown. It's a courtesy to have a space for them to park in," owner Dick Murphy said.

Murphy said the meters are less about pushing people away, because you have to pay, and more about keeping customers who do come downtown on the go.

"Whenever a business is setting up in a downtown area, you want the customers to have a movement, you want to see new customers come and enjoy your store just as much as the last people who parked," Murphy said. "If you had other businesses with employees who can park there all day long, that's not a good customer service type of attitude."

Despite the meters and bringing in thousands annually from fines alone, Nelson said people still try to find ways to avoid paying them. 

"We do hear a lot of stories, that's consistent. People do forget to happy the meters, they have emergencies. There is an appeals process to have their cases reviewed. We do the best they can to accommodate their situations," Nelson said.

Just as the world adapts to new technology, meters will too. You can expect many more advancements soon including a friendly reminder to your cell phone letting you know your time will expire.

While the city can't promise free parking, it can promise easier parking ahead.

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