Solar-powered parking meters coming to Memphis - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Solar-powered parking meters coming to Memphis

Finding change to feed to the parking meter can make or break where your wheels wind up. Finding change to feed to the parking meter can make or break where your wheels wind up.
Solar-powered parking meters are supposed to be easier to use, with more payment options, including credit cards. Solar-powered parking meters are supposed to be easier to use, with more payment options, including credit cards.
Action News Five got the first look at one of the city's new pay stations. Action News Five got the first look at one of the city's new pay stations.

MEMPHIS, TN - (WMC-TV) – Solar-powered parking meters are supposed to be easier to use, with more payment options, including credit cards.

In August, the Memphis City Council approved a 1.7 million dollar plan to install 161 of them.

The Action News Five Investigators got the first look and discovered a storm brewing in some areas where solar-powered meters are already installed.

Finding change to feed to the meter where parking is at a premium can make or break where your wheels wind up.

"It's very inconvenient because I'm here for a workshop which is about 2 hours long," said Karolyn Bryant.

That's all about to change in downtown Memphis thanks to a 1.7 million dollar plan approved by the Memphis City Council to replace old-school time keepers with hi-tech solar powered parking meters.

City engineer John Cameron gave Action News Five the first look at one of the city's new pay stations. Pay with cash or credit at the station closest to your car and get a time stamped receipt.

Solar panels make them environmentally friendly.

"The meter itself operates off a battery so the solar panel just recharges the battery," city engineer John Cameron said.

But what happens when there's no sun to provide that solar power?

Drivers in cities across the country and London - where solar-powered parking meters are already installed - say a couple of days of overcast skies or stormy weather can create a meter meltdown on the streets!.

After two days of gray skies in Richmond, Virginia, the meters there stopped working.

"I was ready to pay but I can't," one driver said. "I don't know what to do."

Their only options were to drive to another spot where meters worked, or risk getting a ticket. Some fed up drivers scribbled on scrap paper, leaving notes to the attendants - "Parking machine not operating."

"One of the things we're going to have to look at is where we're positioning the meters," Cameron said.

Memphis City Engineer John Cameron knows no system is perfect, but he's not sure a lack of sun is the real problem with parking meters in other cities.

"It may be an older model it may be that the batteries are getting older and not holding the charge as long," he said.

Richmond's meters are supplied by a different company than the one chosen by Memphis.

Parkeon will make the meters here.

"The battery is good for several days it's not...it's generally longer than two days," Cameron explained. "They'll communicate to us when there's a problem, when there's a jam, when it's running out of paper, when the battery's getting low."

But driver beware: if you run across a meter that doesn't work, it doesn't mean you get a free parking pass.

"You can park where there's an out of service meter but we recommend that you go to another kiosk make the payment there get a receipt and put it on your dashboard," said Cameron.

Or you could get ticketed, rain or shine.

The City Engineer says Parkeon stands behind a 99 percent reliability claim and that their batteries can actually last up to two weeks between recharge.

If you do park where a meter or pay station isn't working, take a picture of it with your phone.

You may still get a ticket, but if you fight it in court that documentation could help you plead your case.

City officials expect to have the new meters installed before the end of this year.

Cameron says the cost to park downtown could go up in high-demand areas and decrease where parking is in less demand.

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