DENVER
05/22/2012 11:56 am ET Updated May 23, 2012

Denver's Smart Parking Meters To Make Finding An Open Spot Easier, Potentially More Expensive

Are you ready to hate the meter maid a little bit more?

Denver's Public Works department is about to embark on a pilot program in Cherry Creek North. According to a 9News report, the city will bury 500 sensors in the street next to parking meters in an effort to make the meters "smarter."

By smarter, they mean just a bit more needy. The sensors tell a meter when a car vacates a spot, then remove any extra time that may have remained. So instead of lucking out when the previous occupant put more money in than needed, you'll have to feed the meter no matter what.

And if your car stays in the spot longer than permitted, the sensor won't allow you to deposit more time in the meter. You'll have to move your car to a new spot, then feed the meter in your new locale.

Another feature, which Westword says Denver Public Works hopes to build if the pilot program succeeds, would be a smartphone app with real-time data of available parking spots in the area. No more circling the block searching for a spot? Almost sounds too good to be true.

If an app exists to inform drivers of open spots, though, we're betting there would also be an app to help meter maids hone in on expired meters for handing out more tickets.

That said, the city needs to find some way to close a persistent $30 million budget gap (the 2013 budget already has edged $94 million into the red), and if part of the plan is to pitch in a couple quarters every now and then, eh. Better than paying for trash pickup.

Denver also introduced a smart parking-boot program in 2007, which allows the unlucky recipient to remove the boot by punching in a code after all fees have been paid. Micah Baldwin, the alleged first recipient, wrote of the experience:

Now, not only do you have to pay the boot fee plus parking ticket fees, you have to type in the code in the Denver Smart Boot, and then take it to a drop off location! Yes, not only do I have to pay for getting booted, I have to do Denver’s parking enforcement group’s job of removal and return. Nice work Denver. Very Tom Sawyer of you. If the Denver Smart Boot is not returned within 24 hours, a $25 fee is charged, increasing to $500. $500 for a Denver Smart Boot? Hmmmm….maybe I should just keep it?

San Francisco recently installed smart meters there as part of a broader system that includes demand-based pricing adjustments to encourage off-peak travel. Watch a video below of the San Francisco program (note that some of the San Francisco video, like city-owned parking garage tracking, does not apply to Denver.)

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