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Smart meters to help gather data on parking in Downtown Austin

As part of a city pilot program, there are new smart meters off Colorado Street and 2nd in downtown Austin. (Photo: CBS Austin)

Smart meters are now in Austin, and the city says they could help improve parking downtown.

Crews from the manufacturer fine-tuned four new smart meters along Colorado Street Tuesday. The meters are part of a new pilot program that started Monday.

“That’s so fancy,” driver Maddy Moorhead said.

Moorhead was one of the first to use the smart meters off 2nd and Colorado. She really liked using it, especially because you don’t have to use a sticker.

“It’s a lot easier especially because you don’t have to go back in your car and put the receipt there,” Moorhead said.

The pilot will have smart meters those four smart meters on Colorado and two more on 6th St. and Nueces. Each meter covers two spaces for a total of 12 parking spaces.

The meters have a touchscreen, can display public information announcements and it has multiple language capabilities. Those include English, Spanish and Portuguese. It also shows news headlines and weather.

“I think this is very fancy, it has news articles and everything. I don’t even need to check CBS I can just look at the parking meter,” driver Sydney Schwartz said.

However, the city is using the meters mostly for gathering data. Cameras on the meter detect when a vehicle enters a parking space. It then tracks how long that vehicle is in the space.

Tracking how vehicles use parking spaces will help the city decide if more parking spaces are needed, if more passenger or commercial zones are needed or if more employee parking is needed.

The goal is to help turnover and understand downtown parking.

The cameras can detect license plates which can be used with an app to pay without ever having to physically go to the meter. However, the city said the pilot will not use that feature. It will also not keep any license plate information.

The meter also has the capability to alert parking attendants when a vehicle is over time in a space. The pilot will also not use that feature. However, if the city brings in smart meters in the future then it could use that feature later on.

“Kind of that they’re tracking us,” driver Rachel Shay said.

Shay is a little wary about the smart meter. However, she said it could help people out.

Schwartz is also wary, but understands it could benefit parking. “Sometimes everybody’s a little late to their parking meter so crap the city knows now but yeah it makes it better probably because a lot more people are leaving on their time,” Schwartz said.

The pilot will last until September 24. It will be at no cost to the city.

While there could be more of these in the future, the city said this is just step one.

“Yeah I’d like to see more,” Moorhead said.

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