City Hopes New Meters More Intelligent Than Vandals By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday April 12, 2005

Drivers who bank on parking at a broken meter in Downtown Berkeley might have to start riffling through their change.  

On Monday, Berkeley rolled out 31 parking stations to replace the once vaunted Rhyno parking stations that too often fell victim to vandals. Not only do the new stations, which cost the city $332,460, run on solar power, accept credit and debit cards, display messages in different languages, and send warnings for attempted theft, but they accept payment for any parking space. 

So when a driver finds that a pay station is broken, instead of ignoring the parking fee, he must pay at a nearby station within one block in either direction, said Karen Moore, the city’s parking services manager.  

To operate the machines, motorists insert coins or a credit/debit card for the desired length of stay, print a ticket, and stick the ticket on the side window facing the street when parallel parking and on the driver’s side when parking diagonally so the expiration time and date are visible from the outside. 

Cars that don’t display receipts will be ticketed. Parking fees will remain 75 cents per hour. 

The pay stations, known as ParkEZ Stations, will encompass Shattuck Avenue from Allston Streets to the vicinity of Parker Street; Center Street between Shattuck and Oxford Street; and Kittredge Street, in front of the central library. If they prove successful, the city intends to buy more of them. 

City officials estimate the new meters will generate $10,000 more in parking revenues every month than the old meters, which took in a monthly average of $25,000. The cause of the lagging parking meter revenues, according to a city report, is rampant meter vandalism. 

In the past two months, city repair crews have had to fix approximately 5,000 broken meters, many of them more than once, according to Berkeley Police Public Information Officer Joe Okies. Earlier this month, the BPD issued a warning that it would begin actively targeting and arresting meter vandals. Breaking or tampering with a meter is a misdemeanor. 

Rhyno meters were touted as a solution to Berkeley’s chronic meter vandalism when they debuted around 1998. The ParkEZ stations are also billed as being more vandal-resistant than their predecessors. They contain an automatic coin shutter that will open only for coins, not plastic, wood, cloth and other non-metal objects used to disable meters. When they are disabled or running low on power, they transmit a signal to a remote communications center.ª