Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Denver parking study: Smart Meters won't zero out remaining time -- yet

And the countdown begins. In May, the Department of Public Works began installing parking meter sensors at 497 of the 5,900 Smart Meters currently in operation in Denver. Preliminary sensor testing started on June 1 as part of a ninety-day pilot program to determine just how smart those Smart Meters are.

Are they smart enough to know when you attempt to plug a meter? Or pull into a space that still has time on a meter? Short answer: yes.

But there's a longer answer for where the city will go from here -- and don't expect any definitive decisions when the initial test period is on September 1. "The vendor has had difficulty providing reports compatible with our systems, which is delaying our ability to complete our research in the ninety-day period," says Ann Williams, spokeswoman for the department. "This computerized data production is quite complicated and proprietary, and we need to allow the vendor the time needed to synch up our reporting systems in order to have useful data to analyze."

In the meantime, a second phase of testing is now under way, focusing on the durability of the sensor installations, the reliability of the communications between the sensor and the meter, and the ability of the sensor to determine parking availability in a block or area -- which, if the sensors are able enough, could one day lead to an app that would show drivers the locations of any empty parking spaces nearby.

But contrary to the panicked reports that followed the early installation of the sensors, the city has no plans to use them to reset meters to zero out any time remaining when a car pulls out. "During the very first weeks of testing," Williams reports, "the 'reset meter' function was briefly tested to simply verify functionality and does not require additional field testing; there is no plan in place that would turn on this function as part of the next phase of testing. As always, we will be continuing to analyze data to be sure our management strategies are meeting the needs of the community."

And while this testing continues, the Smart Meters will continue to function as they have since they were initially installed two years ago. "A decision about installing sensors at additional locations will not be made until further analysis is performed on the data received from the existing installations," she notes.

Smart idea.

Want to really tie down a pair of newlyweds? Learn how the city did so in our post "Denver boot patrol gives booted bride unwanted wedding gift on no-longer-safe Saturday."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun