If the city is going to change something about its paid parking program, it ought to be the type of electronic meters it uses, merchants and residents said at a Thursday parking forum at .
Here are some common complaints about the meters:
• Hard to read LCD screen in bright light
• Menu times out too quickly after trying to enter space number
• Doesn't print a receipt
• No telephone number to call to report problems
• Doesn't accept American Express
Originally Parking Management Director Mark Lyons had said at the meeting that swapping manufacturers wasn't on the table, but residents and merchants pressed the issue to at least have it discussed at the meeting.
Lyons did say stickers are coming to the meters for a number to call for help or report errors.
"We have a good parking system," Lyons said. "We still need to work on things that are going to make a difference."
James Derheim, owner of and , disagreed with the notion of the parking system being well navigated.
"Mr. Lyons made a statement that this program was moving in the right direction. Well so was the Titanic," Derheim said. "We are taking on water as a downtown."
Chris Gallagher, who helped the city study meters, said research has shown no correlation between successful downtowns and having meters and not having meters. The point of the meters were to have "demand management" to reduce congestion on Main Street from people trying to keep circling for parking and instead find ways to create more available spaces as well as funnel people to other areas to park.
But the one thing the group didn't do was focus on, he said, was the type of meter the city should buy.
"I think there's a whole group of poeple where their only issue is with that piece of equipment," he said.
Lyons stressed that staff was charged with finding improvements to the parking system and not seeking how to eliminate it because that was the direction given by the city commissioners. Commissioners Paul Caragiulo and Terry Turner, vice mayor, supported bagging the meters and attended the forum to listen. The other commissioners were not present.
The Herald-Tribune examined the St. Armands Circle part of the argument — how come they don't have meters. The director of St. Armands Circle Association told the paper there's a good reason:
"But St. Armands merchants say they already pay the city for use of a popular lot on the island, and they promise there will be an uproar if the city installs meters there.
"We're comparing apples and oranges," said Diana Corrigan, director of the St. Armands Circle Association. ...
If the city installs the meters that have been heavily criticized downtown on St. Armands, Corrigan promises "there will be a lot of angry St. Armands merchants and business owners and probably residents, too."
Lyons said another meeting will be planned to address the ideas that came out of Thursday's meeting, plus the amount of comments prevented gaining feedback on a list of city discussion points.