SMARTER PARKING // A parking primer

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August 15, 2011
By: Raya Zimmerman
Raya Zimmerman
Why parking meters are changing, and how to use the new system

Lugging around quarters will become necessity of the past for parking Downtown as new multi-space and single-space “smart” parking meters eventually replace nearly 75 percent of the coin-only models.

“Smart” parking meters have sprung up in cities across the country over the past few years, with their popularity due to being more flexible and adaptable than previous models. A single multi-space meter can cover the parking spaces of an entire block and will accept both credit cards and coins.

Last year, the City Council approved a $6.6-million upgrade for parking meters. The first multi-space meters were installed in the North Loop and Warehouse District areas last fall.

“The old meters have reached the end of their lifespan and needed to be replaced over time,” said city spokesman Matt Laible. “The mechanisms fail more frequently.”

Another system designed around rechargeable parking cards has nearly been phased out. The cards are still accepted on the older machines but are no longer available for sale or recharge.

The city began looking a few years ago at how the current generation of meters would evolve and found multi-space and credit card models were replacing older, coin-operated meters in large cities across the U.S.

The newer models have a user-friendly appeal. They alert drivers when their vehicles are parked in tow-away zones, for example, and inform them when their car should be moved.

The new meters also offer the capability of payment via cell phone. Even though the feature is not yet active, it’s something the city has the option of adding in the future, Laible said.

On top of those advantages, they’re also green.

Using the city’s Wi-Fi system, the solar-powered meters transmit data on parking meter usage through to Traffic Control Agents and city traffic and parking engineers. The system alerts officers to parking violations and allows for enhanced monitoring of how well the parking system is working.

The meters indicate when they are full of coins, so crews will spend less time collecting money. The option to pay by credit or debit card also mean crews will have fewer coins to collect.

On top of the 6,800 parking meters located throughout the city, an additional 200 meters are in the process of being installed this year and another 200 meters will be added in 2012.


Meters throughout the city have varying time restrictions and rates, ranging from an hourly rate of 25 cents to $2

To use the multi-space meters, first identify the numbered space sign for your parking spot, then find the nearest multi-space meter pay station — usually located in the center of the block and marked with a green parking logo.

Type in your space number and press enter. Then, insert enough quarters or dollars coins, or a credit or debit card for the amount of time you wish to park. Press the green “print receipt” button to complete the transaction. Make sure to keep your receipt as it indicates what time your meter expires.

How to avoid a parking ticket

It’s always a dreaded experience — noticing that white envelop with the red strip on your car. Here are some tips from the city on avoiding parking tickets.

Watch for permanent and temporary signs. New parking restrictions come up all of the time. Watch for new loading zones, no parking zones and rush-hour zones. Temporary no-parking restrictions also pop up for construction zones, street cleaning, street repair, emergencies, tree trimming, water or sewer line work and special events.

Read the parking meters. Many people forget to read the information on the meter before they put in their coins. Make sure you take note of the day and hours the meters are in effect, whether there are rush-hour parking restrictions and if your meter is malfunctioning, call 612-673-5750.

Stay away from the corners of intersections. The city bans motorists from parking within 20 feet of inside edge of the intersecting sidewalk.

Avoid bus stops. People often pull up near bus stops to wait for a friend or run an errand, which forces Metro Transit drivers to unload and load passengers on the street.

Park safely near schools. Many streets near schools have restricted parking during the school day. Drivers should never double park near schools to drop off or pick up children.

Use off-street parking. Parking meters are designed for quick trips.
If you have a long appointment, use off-street parking. Staying in a parking meter longer than a posted time limit is a violation — that includes “re-feeding” the meter for more time.

Know the difference between “No Parking” and “No Stopping.” The No Stopping Zone is the city’s most restrictive parking regulation. If you stop in one of these zones, you can be ticketed and towed. In a No Parking Zone, you can park for up to five minutes.

Residential parking restrictions. The city has established more than 20 Critical Traffic and Parking areas to alleviate parking pressure in densely populated neighborhoods. These areas require a permit for parking.

Pay special attention to signing and parking meters in the Warehouse District. This area has late-night parking restrictions, extended parking meter hours and No Stopping Zones. Hennepin and 1st avenues were recently converted to two-way streets. On 1st Avenue, motorists are required to park further away from the curb to accommodate new bike lanes.

Know the Snow Emergency Rules. Stay aware of parking restrictions during heavy snow days.

New parking option

Interstate Parking has a new Parking on the Edge Program. For prices starting at $50 a month, drivers can park at a variety of locations on the edge of Downtown and then take a bus into the city’s core. For more details, check out or call 375-1301.

More resources

For more information on parking, visit the city’s website — or go to MPLS Parking at The Downtown Minneapolis Transportation Management Organization is another great resource for commuters. Check out its site at

For a map of Downtown-area parking ramp locations, go to and click on “The Source.”