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New meters slash city’s replacement costs


A new type of parking meter could save Des Moines money by replacing old meters.

The city began installation of more than 30 “double space” parking meters in the last two weeks on High Street, Grand Avenue, 12th Street and 13th Street, in the vicinity of the Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield building.

Each meter will take up the same space as one conventional meter but do the work of two. The new meters cost $392 apiece, while the old single-meters cost $350 to do half the work.

“You save almost the whole cost of metering a second space,” said Michael Berry, traffic facilities administrator for the city of Des Moines. “It’s really a good deal.”

Meter replacement is part of a capital improvement project started two years ago, where the city tries to replace old meters to keep Des Moines’ meter stock in good working order. Berry said a meter’s maximum life is seven or eight years.

The city has been replacing about 350 meters per year, which is roughly 10 percent of the total in Des Moines.

“But if you look at that and you understand they have to be replaced every seven or eight years, you need to replace more than 10 percent of those meters every year on an ongoing basis,” Berry said. “We really haven’t been able to do that.”

That’s where the new meters come in handy. Berry estimated the city will replace 500 old meters in the next year, which could be done by installing 250 of the new meters. That will cost roughly $98,000, while it would cost about $122,500 to install 350 single meters. Per spot, that adds up to a savings of $154, or 44 percent.

Des Moines takes in $1.25 million to $1.5 million in profits per year from its parking meters, Berry said.

That revenue feeds entirely back into the parking system to create more spaces and maintain existing spaces.

“The use of the parking meter is not necessarily revenue; it’s to control the parking space,” Berry said. “Really the purpose of the parking meter is to provide spaces for retail, visitor use and also employee use. … If you are a business, and a car sits there all day, your customers don’t have a place to park.”

The “double space” meters will accept change or smart cards that drivers can buy from the city and put money on to prepay for parking. Berry doesn’t expect problems with people figuring out how to use the new technology as opposed to the old meters.

A test meter was installed in the 900 block of Locust Street in September, and the city didn’t receive any questions or complaints during that time.

“It’s not something that’s going to be so complicated people can’t use it,” Berry said. “It’s real intuitive. It’s just like the parking meters that we have now. The only difference is you have a button that you push to select your space.”

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