Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Smart meters: It's not too smart to use debit cards in Denver's new meters

Best tip you won't find in the Best of Denver 2010, now hitting newstands: The Best Parking Meters are in the 2100 block of Larimer Street. Not only do those old-time meters charge just 25 cents for an hour, but you can still feed them this pittance with a cashkey. Or actual change, of course.

Denver is now 60 percent of the way to replacing all of its parking meters with the so-called "Smart" meters, which don't take those keys that seemed so innovative a decade ago. I wasn't so smart: I loaded mine up with $50 at the end of February, when I was at the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building to interview dispensary owners.

When I plunked down my fifty bucks, no one told me that the cashkey wouldn't work in the Smart meters -- which by early May should account for 80 percent of this city's meters.

You can get Smart cards that work in the meters -- but unlike the keys, they're only available (now) at the Webb building and Wastewater headquarters. Some day, we hear, they'll be at the Tattered Cover outlets as well as all King Soopers, but that day isn't here.

In the meantime, you can use credit and debit cards in the meters, but fair warning: Depending on your card policies, you may be charged a couple of bucks in bank administration fees every time you try to feed the meter. And unlike the Smart cards, most credit cards won't let you charge less than a buck on the meter, anyway, even if you only need a quarter's worth of time.

Our advice? Park in the 2100 block of Larimer. Or next time you're at the Webb building to get a dispensary license, surrender to the inevitable and buy a Smart card, too.