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Smart Parking Meters Find A Home In San Diego

A smart parking meter in the Gaslamp Quarter, Oct. 30, 2014.
A smart parking meter in the Gaslamp Quarter, Oct. 30, 2014.

Digging for change to feed a parking meter will soon be part of San Diego history.

The city of San Diego is installing around 200 "smart" parking meters beginning this week that will accept credit card payments and track usage of spaces.

The devices, which cost a total of $3.8 million, are replacing traditional single-space meters that only accept coins, according to the office of City Council President Todd Gloria.

"Bringing smart parking meters to San Diego was on the short list of things I wanted to accomplish during my tenure as (interim) mayor, and I know San Diegans and visitors will notice the improvement this week upon their installation," Gloria said.

"San Diego is a city of innovation and people here should not resort to the antiquated practice of searching for coins for parking meters," he said. "With more user-friendly parking meters, customers will be able to more easily patronize the small businesses throughout downtown, Uptown, and Mid-City, contributing to the economic development of our city."

About 97 percent of San Diego's parking meters are being replaced, according to Gloria's office. The devices use the city's existing meter poles, making installation easier and preserving useful current infrastructure.

The smart meters are being installed first in the Gaslamp Quarter, with other areas of downtown to follow. The meters will be installed in the Uptown and Mid-City areas early next year.

When installation is complete, the city plans to start a pilot project to to let customers pay via their mobile phones. Gloria calls them "super smart meters," and said, "It might send you a text message to let you know when you're meter's about to expire, and also may even let you know on a smartphone app where the empty spaces are."

Data from the meters will be used to guide the future policies of the city and community parking groups, Gloria said.

KPBS contributed to this story