City to install hundreds more 'smart meters' in urban core

City to install hundreds more 'smart meters' in urban core
Published: Aug. 17, 2016 at 10:08 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city has 333 smart parking meters in Chinatown, downtown and in a city garage.

Now, 727 more of the devices, which accept coins, credit or debit, are coming to curbsides.

"It's going to be basically in the urban core plus all of Waikiki," city Transportation Department director Michael Formby said.

Councilman Trevor Ozawa wants the city to make the parking meter upgrades a priority. And he believes his urging is motivating the city to act.

"They've had four years to get this going. I'm asking them to do it now and do all of them," he said.

Formby insists that's always been the  city's plan.

"And we'll move to do the rest. But it is a budget issue. We've got to get the money in the budget to do it in the future," he said.

Drivers familiar with the smart meters had mixed reactions to the expansion plan.

"I'm old school. So I use coins all the time. I don't like sticking my credit card in a machine because I feel that it's vulnerable," Steve Cup Choy said.

But Driver Craig Fitzgerald said the smart meters might discourage vandalism and theft.

"A lot of times meters get knocked over and they get robbed. Now they're not going to be able to do that with the credit cards. There's no incentive for people to vandalize them anymore," he said.

As part of the city's plan, crews will upgrade the 333 old smart meters and put in 51 new ones on two Waikiki streets where parking is now free.

Waikiki is Ozawa's district, and he said he wants to talk that plan over with the administration.

"Nowhere have I noted that we want to go ahead and add in more metered parking in Waikiki. That's a totally separate issue. I've never heard of that," he said.

Formby said presentations were made to the Waikiki Neighborhood Board and Waikiki Improvement Association, and letters were sent to residents on those streets.

"There's been no pushback from the community because meters drive change and availability of parking," he said.

Meanwhile, Ozawa and the city administration agree that smart meters bring in more revenue.

Studies show drivers put more time on the meter when they use a credit card. The 333 smart meters already on the street brought in 25 percent more revenue annually compared to the old coin-fed meters.

It will cost about $600,000 to upgrade the old smart meters and install new ones that have more protection against identity theft. Work will begin in the fall.

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