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Realm of Green Machines Expanding in DC

Your first instinct as you pull into a parking space on a busy city street will be to think, This is too good to be true. No meter?

And you'll be right. It is too good to be true and there is a meter, only now it's a green kiosk that spits out little white parking permits. The permits can be used along the stretch of street subject to the green machine's parking rules, so there's no need for meters controlling individual spaces.

They're supposed to be user friendly, but you couldn't tell that by this user. To my eyes, the instructions are really tiny. (I don't use them often enough to have internalized the pattern of button pushing. In fact, I forget from time to time that the machines don't take bills -- only coins and credit cards.)

After paying, you put the little white permit on your passenger-side dashboard, on the street side. There's a problem for motorcyclists. One rider was telling me last week that riders who wrap the permits around handlebars may return to find the permits gone, apparently appropriated by another parker.

This month, drivers are seeing more of the green multi-space machines downtown and along Connecticut and Wisconsin avenues, replacing the old silver box meters. Specifically, the District Department of Transportation says it is installing 101 of the new machines in downtown commercial areas near Verizon Center and the theater district, and on Wisconsin in Glover Park and on Connecticut in Cleveland Park. The 101 green machines replace 845 single space and double space meters, DDOT says.

Next Target: Constitution Avenue and the downtown business district will get the green machines early this summer.

The Rules: If you're like me and need a reminder, this is how they work. After you park, walk to the nearest of these pay stations. There may be somebody ahead of you in line, staring at the thing. Be patient.

The face of the green machine has a digital display showing the transaction information, including time of day, amount of time purchased and expiration time. Deposit coins or insert a credit or debit card. When you've put in the time you need, press the green button. The pay station will print out a receipt showing the amount paid, the date, and the expiration time. That's what you put on the passenger side dashboard. See this link for DDOT's guide to using meters.

What do you think of them?

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By Robert Thomson  |  May 4, 2009; 1:15 PM ET
Categories:  Driving  
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This sounds terribly complicated. Wouldn't it be easier to simply have the spaces numbered and to enter your parking space number into the system and pay for that particular space? I have seen systems like this elsewhere and they seem to work fine.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | May 4, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

One of the advantages of these meters is that you can increase the number of spots by not having spots marked, either by meters or parking spot numbers. I drive a small car, and I can squeeze into a small spot with only a few inches on either end of my car. If the spaces are marked with numbers or meters, there is a lot of wasted space. This can not only mean more cars parking, but more revenue if more cars pay to park. It also means more convenient payment options (credit cards and smart cards) and fewer meters to maintain. Win win win for everyone.

Posted by: thetan | May 4, 2009 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Woohoo! We've been waiting for these to come to Glover Park. They really aren't too complicated and they've been using them in Georgetown for several years now. One major advantage, particularly in Glover Park, is that the very narrow sidewalk filled with pedestrians and strollers is much less cluttered and rife with hazards. If we're lucky, they'll redo the parking signage while they're at it, removing additional sidewalk obstructions. They use these all over the world successfully so I think our highly educated DC public will get the hang of them pretty quickly.

Posted by: GloverParker | May 4, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I've used these in Arlington, in New York (they call them muni-meters), and in the UK (they call it pay and display). Much better than the old-style meters, especially for the reasons "thetan" notes. With "pay and display," if you can fit your car in, you can park, whereas with the old system there had to be an available meter.

I've overpaid a couple of times in Arlington when doctor's appointments ran shorter than I expected, and when that happens I usually take the ticket and leave it at the machine so someone else can use it for the unexpired time. Someone gave me an unexpired ticket one time as well. I view this as analogous to not having to feed the meter if the person before you leaves before the time is up.

I wonder, with this system can people who drive a Smart park perpendicular to the curb? I don't know what DC law is on that issue, and I don't have a Smart so it's more just idle curiosity on my part (except to the extent that parking a Smart that way would free up more space for the rest of us).

The answer to the situation UMDTerpsGirl poses would be to have drivers punch in their license-plate numbers when paying. That would eliminate the need for the "and display" aspect of "pay and display," and it might make it easier to regulate time limits on parking (i.e., "feeding the meter" would no longer work because they could program the machine to recognize your plate number). But it probably makes the machines more complicated, and DC's current law generally says that you may not occupy a particular SPOT for more than a particular number of hours, not that you may not park on a particular BLOCK for more than a particular number of hours.

Posted by: 1995hoo | May 4, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

"It also means more convenient payment options (credit cards and smart cards) and fewer meters to maintain."

And you can get airmiles for paying the parking meter :-)

Posted by: 1995hoo | May 4, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I love these machines and I do find them easy to use. I figure that old meters didn't take dollar bills, so what's the big deal if these don't either. Besides, if they did take bills, everyone would want them to dispense change. When the machines first popped up in Georgetown and around the convention center, couldn't you also buy Circulator fares from them, in order to speed up boarding the bus?

Posted by: anoel | May 4, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Losing 845 parking meters is like losing 845 bike racks.

Posted by: cranor | May 4, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

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