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Treasurer Jones Seeking Integrated Parking Management Bids, To Hold ‘Town Hall’ Events

October 14, 2013 Events/Meetings, Featured, Parking, Politics/Policy 57 Comments

I’ve now attended three meetings of the St. Louis Parking Commission (July, September, October). Here are the minutes from the prior meetings that were distributed:

These minutes are not available online so I scanned and uploaded them. Hopefully they will, in the interest of transparency, upload these in the future.

A sign facing Euclid near Lindell highlighting the fact these meters accept credit card payments.
A sign facing Euclid near Lindell highlighting the fact these meters accept credit card payments.

The “Liberty Meter” parking meter test being conducted in the Central West End has been mentioned each time.   In October specific reports were handed out showing payments by coin vs credit card. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t add up. The August total for credit card payments was copied into September, and other totals & percentages are incorrect.  Still, from the data presented we can see the use of credits cards during this trial are higher than the previous trial a few years ago on South Grand. We can also see credit card use has been increasing each month. It’s hard to know for sure given the spreadsheet errors.

Since I sold my car 18 months ago I haven’t had a chance to use these new meters, but I still think I’d prefer payment machines to individual meters. Anyone have any thoughts?

At the October meeting they went into closed session to discuss a recently issued Request for Proposal for an Integrated Parking Management System:

The City of St. Louis Treasurer’s Office is soliciting proposals from qualified companies to furnish and potentially install an easy-to-use on-street parking system that allows payment flexibility and convenience for users while allowing real-time monitoring, reduced cost of operating, increased flexibility in changing rates and increased compliance.

It was also announced that four “Town Hall” events are scheduled for the coming weeks:

The City of St. Louis Treasurer’s Office will host four town halls dedicated to the current and future state of parking in St. Louis. The Treasurer’s Office issued an RFP for parking meter management and processing on October 4 in efforts to modernize operations.

“We promised the citizens of St. Louis that all existing contracts would be reviewed and examined for their operational and financial efficiency. This is another step we’re taking to propel the office from the 19th Century to the 21st Century,” said Treasurer Tishaura Jones.

The town halls will provide more information on the RFP selection process and opportunities for citizens to provide feedback on the direction of parking in St. Louis. The RFP selection will consist of two phases. During the first phase a review committee will rank and score the proposals based upon the evaluation criteria. The Treasurer’s Office will select a limited number of vendors to proceed to the second phase which requires vendors to perform a six (6) month on-street field test evaluation of their equipment before a final selection is made. The field test will include installing parking equipment on both sides of one or more contiguous city blocks. Based upon the results of the trial and citizen feedback, the Treasurer’s Office may decide to proceed with an offer to one or more companies to furnish and potentially install units on a long-term basis throughout the City.

The town halls will take at the following locations:

Schlafly Branch Library, 225 N Euclid Ave.

Wednesday, October 23, 6:00pm-7:00pm

Central Library, 1301 Olive St.

Tuesday, October 29, 6:00pm-7:00pm

Carondelet Park Recreation Complex, 930 Holly Hills Ave.

Wednesday, November 6, 6:00pm-7:00pm

O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex, 4343 W Florissant Ave.

Tuesday, November 12, 6:00pm-7:00pm

Unfortunately, all are scheduled for 6pm on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Due to work schedules, not everyone will be able to attend. With four events it would’ve been nice to see four days of the week covered rather than just two, as well as other times besides 6pm-7pm.

— Steve Patterson


Currently there are "57 comments" on this Article:

  1. RyleyinSTL says:

    Nice to see the Treasurer’s Office considering joining the rest of us in the 21st century. I never have any cash or change on my these days. Given the convenience of debit/credit or NFC (with my phone) and the fact that the USA is extremely resistant to using coins over 25 cents in value, this is a no brainer.

  2. JZ71 says:

    I prefer individual meters. I keep a stash of quarters in my truck and have no problems doing it old school – if it ain’t broke, don’t “fix” it!

    • It may not be broke for you personally, but for many having to carry several dollars worth of coins to every day is a huge problem! Those of use who rarely use cash don’t end up with change for meters.

    • guest says:

      Not everyone carries change. Join the 21st Century already STL.

      The current system is “broke” for this day and age.

      • Libertarians can’t see beyond themselves.

        • JZ71 says:

          Hey, you asked, “Anyone have any thoughts?” I expressed mine, you have yours, so I guess I have to say that urbanists, especially non-driving ones, can’t see beyond themselves, either!

          To expand, I like that individual meters a) better define individual spaces, b) don’t require walking half a block away to use them, and c) are not susceptible to mass failure. If one meter fails, only one space is out of commission. If a pay station fails, a whole block of of parking is out of commission. I also didn’t say that I was against meters taking credit cards, just that I prefer individual meters over pay stations.

          As for the burden of “having to carry several dollars worth of coins to every day”, if you’re parking, you’re driving there. Either throw your change in the car (like I do) or buy a roll of quarters. There are both costs and risks with relying on debit cards – see Schnuck’s fiasco. But if the city want’s to either expand the use of meters that accept credit cards or move to smart cards or parking keys, I don’t have any major objections: http://www.denvergov.org/tabid/437782/Default.aspx

          • I did ask, and your comment up until “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it ” was fine. It’s that last bit that shows your true colors. Inlike you, I have the ability to recognize the problems others may encounter. Rather than just tell them to adapt your fix, I try to actually solve their problem.

          • JZ71 says:

            Pay stations are not a better solution, parking meters that accept credit cards are.

          • The few times I’ve used stations I’ve not had a problem, but others have. LA just removed a bunch of stations and are going to individual meters that accept plastic. http://articles.latimes.com/2013/sep/02/local/la-me-parking-kiosks-20130903

          • moe says:

            The current system isn’t broken. The only thing broken are the different zones and meters with wrong date and time stamps on them. If they want to change the individual meters to accept different payment forms that that’s fine, but to switch all meters to one (either all debit or single payment stand, etc) is not smart.
            Yes, if you are using a meter, you have places to store change. I remember the stupid ‘experiment’ on Grand. Having to park, walk to the ticket machine to pay, grab the ticket, then return to your vehicle to place the ticket not only takes time but in heat, extreme cold, and rain makes for a very unwelcoming experience. And while some ‘urbanist’ may think that making parking unbearable will force people to walk, the truth in the real world is that it will only force those with vehicles to go elsewhere.

          • The current coin-only system is broken. Those who don’t use cash will take their debit/credit cards elsewhere.
            The prior test on Grand had two types of systems: pay & display and pay-per-space. Only the former required you to return to display the payment. The advantage of this is you can you that payment in another space in the same area.
            Both types of pay stations and individual meters have pros and cons that must be evaluated. While I prefer stations I also like the idea of meters that accept cards. Accepting more than coins is the problem to be solved!

          • RyleyinSTL says:

            I also prefer the individual meter approach for your above mentioned reasons. Additionally some pay station systems require you to enter a stall number and some don’t…which isn’t always noticeable before you get to the machine, adding to the PIA factor.

        • RyleyinSTL says:

          …which is the whole point.

        • JZ71 says:

          In response to your libertarian comment – I don’t quite get why having a couple of dollars in change is such a big deal. What’s next? Expecting Metro to take credit cards for a bus ride?! I’m not a cash-only guy – I have and regularly use my debit and credit cards – but I also think that it’s stupid for a retailer or a bank to be expected to process a credit/debit card transaction of less than $5.00 (Smart cards / declining balance cards are something else, with all processing handled internally, for a lot less money.). Swipe fees (the cost of processing a credit or debit transaction run a minimum of 2%-3%) would come directly out of the city’s profits, just so someone doesn’t need to dig out a couple of quarters, while the new meters would also cost more than the old ones. Your convenience is being subsidized by us cash payers, so yes, my libertarian side kicks in – if “you” are willing to pay a premium to use a credit/debit card, I’m all in – give me 15 minutes for my quarter and you get 14 or 12 minutes for your 25 cent debit – fair is fair!

          Since “you” neither drive nor have to park in St. Louis, your embrace of every thing new, wonderful, computerized and interconnected doesn’t seem based in the same convenience and economic reality of those of us out in the real world every day – it comes across more as an ivory tower view of a world where our urban vistas won’t be marred by multiple parking meters, only enhanced by multiple power poles and catenary wires put in place to support a nascent street car system . . .



          • moe says:

            Couldn’t have said it better JZ. And I’m a democrat.

          • I get that you don’t get why it’s a big deal to carry change for the meter, I’m not sure how to get you to understand.
            I had a car for about 21 years of my 23 years in St. Louis, plus we’re looking at buying a car that I’ll be able to drive as well.
            The other side of the…coin…is coins are a labor intensive form of payment. Plastic though gets into city accounts quickly, beginning to draw interest.

          • JZ71 says:

            I do understand your preference for going cashless. I don’t understand why you expect me to subsidize that choice!

            Any “interest”, in today’s economy, would be minimal, and way less than any swipe fee the city would have to pay to the credit card processor.

            Carrying change is a big deal if it’s in your pocket or purse. Carrying change in a 2,800+ pound vehicle is not a burden, unless you see a need to have several thousand dollars in nickels.

            The one solution that might make all of us happy would be linking Metro’s future “smart” cards to the city’s parking meter system. Load up that card (or purchase a pre-loaded one) with $50 or $100 and use it to both ride the bus OR to park, cashlessly. You get the convenience you desire and the city or Metro gets to collect interest on the unused balance, until you actually use it.

          • You’ve got it backwards, the high cost of collecting and processing coins is the “subsidized” method of payment.

          • JZ71 says:

            Is that what the treasurer’s office is saying? What the potential vendors are arguing? Or just an assumption you’re making?

            Yes, collecting coins out of meters is more labor intensive than doing it electronically. A guy walks down the street dumping several dozen dollars of coins into a wheeled container that is then emptied into a truck, taken to central counting location where they’re bundled and placed in the bank. Several people making $10-$20 an hour are employed handling hundreds of dollars an hour.

            The alternative is employing people to install and maintain the network required to process these small transactions electronically – maintain the individual meters so they work 24/7, out in the real world, sending their information, wirelessly, to some processing hub. The nearest current model is the transition in the casino world from mechanical slot machines to electronic ones. Behind the scenes, there’s a whole on-site IT staff, to maintain that network (that regularly has small, individual failures) in a climate-controlled environment. But this is also a world, much like gas stations, where many customers are spending $50 or $100 per transaction, so the transition has positive economic benefits.

            Bottom line, what are the real savings for moving parking meters from hard (literally!) currency to electronic? Is it just convenience? Or, are there real, quantifiable, net savings to accepting credit cards for a $1 parking charge?! If there are, I’m in – just show me!

          • Why do you think every city has either gone to, or looking at, accepting bills & plastic? See page 138 of “Parking Management Best Practices” by Todd Litman for a chart on methods for collecting payment, individual meters have high operating costs. Pay stations are listed as medium.

          • JZ71 says:

            I don’t have that book in my library, but based on the online abstracts, he seems to argue for smart management of available supply – I agree. He also states that there is no one-size-fits-all solution – I agree. I’m also not surprised that he finds that individual meters are more expensive to operate than pay stations – I agree. I also agree that the city desperately needs to look at their overall parking management system – there are many missed opportunities to both maximize revenue and to make it more user-friendly. My point is that we need to be on the leading edge of technology, not the bleeding edge. Our rates are currently low (lower than many comparable cities). Most systems that accept credit cards have a minimum charge (usually a $1), which translates to paying for at least an hour’s worth of parking here. Retrofitting meters, at something like $800 a meter, to generate something like another $5 a day in revenue, is problematic, at best. Raising rates to pay for “better” technology only makes sense if it attracts more parkers, but my gut says that higher rates,here, will be a bigger disincentive than any gain in convenience. The best solution, given our current rate structure, would likely be focusing more on enforcing existing time limits, using drive-by plate readers instead of marking tires with chalk, and expanding “free” on-street parking with reasonable time limits (1, 2 or 3 hours). The real goal of metered parking is to encourage turnover. Charging $1 an hour isn’t much of a club; a $20 or $30 ticket is!

          • Unfortunately, the goal in St. Louis isn’t turnover: http://www.urbanreviewstl.com/2013/07/st-louis-not-enforcing-short-term-parking-limits/
            Making payment more convenient will help reduce the perception that parking is a hassle, leading to more business for merchants, resulting in more hiring and collection of sales taxes.
            You’re way off on the processing charge! With Amazon & iTunes small transactions are common these days. Bloomington IN adds a 30 cent processing fee for credit card payments.

          • JZ71 says:

            Making it “free” would do more to reduce the perception that parking is a hassle in the city. Charge for parking only where there’s a true dearth of on-street spaces. In places like S. Grand and the CWE, just enforce the time limits, vigorously.

          • I’m also guessing Donald Shoup’s book “The High Cost of Free Parking” isn’t in your library: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/business/economy/15view.html?_r=0

          • JZ71 says:

            It’s not. But “free” on-street parking is never free IF there’s consistent enforcement. Instead of nickle-and-diming people to park for an hour two, those that abuse the system get hit with fines and, eventually, vehicle impoundment. The net result is more income, more turnover in spaces and the perception of accessible parking is there to compete with suburban options.

          • moe says:

            1) The City is NOT Amazon & iTunes. To expect a transaction rate equal to theirs is foolishness.
            2) All the rants about parking, too much parking, etc….now it’s ‘let’s get more parking so we get more customers’.

          • With Square, PayPal Now, etc the credit card industry is changing from a decade ago. If we adopt credit card payment for parking it’ll be through a national/worldwide company that processes a high number of transactions per day.
            Convenience to the end user doesn’t mean more parking spaces. The number of spaces is limited, the goal is to manage those limited number of spaces better so customers and merchants are happy.

          • moe says:

            Yeah, and I’m sure they’ll do it for free because afterall, we’re the City of St. Louis.

          • We wouldn’t be charged some high rate like a mom & pop store either.

          • moe says:

            And also….for meters and pay stations to accept more and larger payments, at what point does the meter become a parking lot? If I have to pay $60 to park my car for a week on the lot, but I can grab a meter at the edge of the parking lot and load it for a day at $8, whose winning and who’s losing?

          • If someone is parking for a week it should be cheaper to park off-street. The equipment shouldn’t accept payment for longer than the time limit. The city should enforce the limit so people don’t park all day at a meter.

          • moe says:

            A lot of shoulds. The equipment does, and people do (park at a meter all day)

          • Jones said the industry usually sees 50% payment by credit card. Her data shows $6,900 collected by coin in September for the sixty (60) test meters, or $115 average.
            The city has thousands of individual meters, an outside company collects and processes the coins now.

          • JZ71 says:

            And your point is? The real question is if 50% are now made with credit cards, and the split now is $115 cash and $115 credit, what was the all-cash amount, previously? $230 in coins? $200? $150? 250?! Is there any increase in revenue? Or just more convenience?

          • The $115 was 80% of the revenue, we’re not close to 50% credit card use yet. The point is if we can keep revenue the same we only need to empty the meters half as often.

          • moe says:

            Revenue??? You’re looking at the wrong number Steve. Scroll down to the NET revenue. It does not a hoop of good to keep revenue at $115, if it’s leaking out the back door in contract fees, employee labor (again, IT is expensive), equipment depreciation (they won’t last as long), etc.

          • That’s been my point, JZ was trying to say by accepting credit cards he’d be subsidizing the convenience of others by using coins.
            We need to see a study of coin collection costs vs credit card processing fees…

          • moe says:

            And let’s not forget, IT people, even basic level ones, will earn a lot more than the coin collector.

          • The IT for new electronic meters/stations is handled by the suppler. The equipment isn’t paid for up front, they get a revenue split so they want to keep everything working smoothly so they get paid.

          • moe says:

            All built into the cost of doing business, which means the revenue split will translate into less spendable $$$$$ into the city coffers. Just look at the split between red light camera company and a city’s, any city, revenue. The goal should be to maximize every space and every $$$ for the City, not for subcontractors and not for people that want to hog meters.

          • Right now a contractor collects & processes all the coins. Takes 2-3 people, a van, going to every single meter. Do you know at what point it would be cheaper to process credit card transactions instead of coin?
            I have no clue, I hope we’ll find out from the Treasurer.

          • moe says:

            Well make sure the treasurer includes all costs….including those of the ghosts. You won’t be happy until every one agrees that there is a problem and that meters should just take cards.

        • samizdat says:

          Even liberals use change, just sayin’.

          As long as the ability to use change is retained, and this thing doesn’t devolve into the situation in Chicago, where the idiots basically gave away the store, then bring on the 21st Century. Again.

          Corruption in Chi-town:




          Oh, BTW, Mayor Slay wants to sell our City Water to Veolia. Judging by the way in which Veolia runs its business (generally a monopoly, when muni water systems are concerned), this would be a BAD idea:




  3. wump says:

    Fyi to all you car slaves out there, unless you are downtown just park on a side street, those don’t have meters. Coutny people are so dumb

    • Aren’t you listening, non-urbanists don’t want to walk. Ever. The expectation is a space right in front of the door.

      • moe says:

        I’m listening and all I hear is the dishwasher running.
        I’m reading and all I’m reading are typos and people being bashed for answering the question “Anyone have any thoughts?”

        • When the thought is “I don’t have a problem therefore no problem exists”, expect criticism.

          • JZ71 says:

            Define the “problem” before you ask for comments. I don’t think anyone objects to having meters take more forms of payment. While I’m fine with coins (given the current rates), I understand why other people might have other preferences. But if you see meters, themselves, as a “problem” and pay stations as a better solution, then let’s have that discussion.

            There are multiple issues to be discussed, including meter locations (are they still really necessary or useful in fading retail areas?), hours of enforcement, uneven and “stupid” enforcement (issuing tickets for blocking street sweepers 2-3 AFTER the sweepers have done their job) and rates / revenue goals (are they there to encourage turnover or are they there to make the city money?).

            Personally, the biggest “problems” I see with our current meters are a) the hours of operation and the time limits are not displayed clearly, b) the rates are either too low (generating not enough revenue to either insure consistent enforcement and to force turnover) or too high (generating little real revenue per space – just make them free) and c) too little enforcement (not a lot of incentive to comply). How to “feed” them isn’t a problem for me or for many other urban-dwelling people!

          • I forgot to mention the Parking Commissoin discussed removal of low revenue meters. I agree visibility of hours is often poor on meters.
            The other thing not yet mentioned is stations allow you to pay with bills too.

          • JZ71 says:

            Which could be important if rates go up significantly from current levels.

          • Increased rates, demand pricing, and increased fines are being considered.

          • moe says:

            That’s my thought. I can take criticism, but what I can’t take is someone asking for thoughts that only match their pre-conceived ideas. And by the way: there are MANY urbanist that don’t walk, just like there are many suburbanist that do walk.

      • Tom says:

        “Non-urbanists don’t want to walk. Ever.” What data supports this statement?

  4. Tom says:

    Maybe a discussion on the definition of “mediocre” would be safer.
    We don’t have parking meters in Wildwood. We just tie up our horses anywhere we can find a tree branch.


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