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October 30, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Forget fishing for change; proposed new parking meters will take credit, debit cards

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Multibay parking meters accept credit and debit cards, as well as coins.

A long local nightmare with downtown parking meters may soon be, well, not over but at least moving in the right direction.

The Las Vegas City Council next week will consider approving a $1.4 million contract to purchase 233 computerized parking meters that accept debit and credit cards, replacing 1,200 coin-operated meters.

For years, downtown businesses have complained about the zealousness with which the city’s “meter maids” ticket vehicles, potentially driving away customers from the redeveloping Fremont East area. Business owners also have complained that coin-operated meters were less than optimal in a world of exchange increasingly dominated by debit and credit cards.

Computerized meters exist in small batches here and there around downtown, most notably in two parking lots operated by the El Cortez.

The city hired a “parking czar” in mid-2011 to come up with a parking plan for downtown.

Here’s how the new meters, manufactured by Parkeon, a New Jersey-based company, work: Each will cover about six numbered parking spots. Drivers park, walk to the machine, punch in the number of their parking space, then the amount of time they want to pay for, and insert their debit or credit card to pay. (The new machines will also accept coins.)

The plan under consideration by the council also calls for the permanent removal of 111 parking meters, meaning those 111 spaces then would be available for free.

So paying for parking may become easier for those who don’t carry around bags of quarters. However, it won’t eliminate parking tickets for those who overstay their welcome in metered areas.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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