Tired of Fresno’s coin-fed parking meters? Upgrades are on the way

The daily routine of feeding coins into parking meters in downtown may change with upcoming upgrade

The City of Fresno is taking steps to upgrade existing coin-fed parking meters downtown to install smart meters.
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The City of Fresno is taking steps to upgrade existing coin-fed parking meters downtown to install smart meters.

The city of Fresno is taking steps to upgrade its parking meters, including the ones on Fulton Street and downtown.

The city is soliciting bids for a project to install “smart meters” — an effort that could be completed by summer.

Smart meters typically allow for a wider variety of payment types, ranging from credit/debit cards to smart phone applications – as opposed to spare change.

City parking meters, particularly in downtown, have long been a source of frustration for residents and business owners. Currently, Fresno’s parking meters only accept coins or a prepaid parking card that can be purchased through the city.

The project includes upgrading the 200 parking meters along the Fulton corridor, plus thousands of others throughout the city.

The issue was raised during Thursday’s Fresno City Council meeting, when the council voted for a study looking into whether it makes sense to create a parking authority.

District 3 Council Member Miguel Arias said Fresno is stuck using “the flip-phone version of parking.”

“One of the biggest concerns and complaints I get from downtown residents – and I’ve been one for a decade now – is that our parking isn’t as accommodating as other cities,” said District 3 Council Member Miguel Arias.

“Smaller cities than ourselves like Modesto are much more digitized and modern than we are.”

Fresno City Manager Wilma Quan said smart meters were slated to be ready when Fulton Street opened to traffic, but Measure C money from Fresno Council of Governments was tied up because of delays with the South Stadium project.

Arias pointed out digital meters that accept credit cards and even smart phone payments have been around for at least a decade.

But just this week the city moved forward to seek contractors to complete the upgrades.

The parking authority would take control of all city parking operations and infrastructure. While the study is taking place, the city wouldn’t negotiate sales for other parking garages or lots.

The city recently sold the spiral garage on Van Ness Avenue and the H Street parking lot, both in downtown.

Mayor Lee Brand said the sales made sense for the city financially, but there were no other plans to sell other parking assets.

Brianna Calix: 559-441-6166, @BriannaCalix

Brianna Calix covers Fresno’s city government for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable, analyze city policy and inform readers how city hall decisions might affect their lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star.