Good news for drivers who never seem to have enough change for the meter: Downtown Omaha is now home to hundreds of meters that will accept coins or credit cards.
The first 400 of 1,000 new meters purchased by the City of Omaha earlier this year arrived this week and started showing up on the street Tuesday.
Ken Smith, the city's parking manager, said about a dozen public works employees were spending the rainy day installing all 400 meters. They're all situated either in the Old Market area or near the city-county offices a few blocks west. An additional 600 meters, which should arrive in mid-May, will be installed in between those areas.
The city is spending $492,000 on the solar-powered meters.
Officials say they expect the new technology to come with several benefits. They hope the card option will be more convenient for drivers and will speed up the response time for out-of-order meters.
“It's a Web interface, so I can dial into a meter and see how it's doing,” Smith said. “It can send me information back about whether a credit card failed or if (the meter) is down.”
Smith said the city plans to gather more information about how and when the new meters are used and will use that information to make decisions about other changes to the city's parking system.
He's also begun meeting with a new parking advisory committee, which includes representatives from the Old Market, north downtown, Midtown Crossing, the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority and other groups.
So far, there have been no specific plans announced about changes to hours or rates, including in city garages.
Meanwhile, some of the old meters pulled out of sidewalks Tuesday will go to a new location. Smith said the city is installing meters along North 12th Street, near TD Ameritrade Park, in areas that had not previously had metered parking.
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