Proposed downtown Oklahoma City parking meters have troubled past and face an uncertain future

A new parking meter proposed for downtown Oklahoma City is facing some criticism in its first review by a committee tasked with overseeing implementation of Project 180.
BY STEVE LACKMEYER slackmeyer@opubco.com Published: July 26, 2011
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A new parking meter proposed for downtown Oklahoma City is facing some criticism in its first review by a committee tasked with overseeing implementation of Project 180.

If approved by the Devon Implementation Committee, the Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust and the city council, about 235 solar-powered high-tech parking meters would be installed throughout downtown at a cost of about $1.78 million.

City officials Monday indicated the meters were well received when installed in Chicago. But research by The Oklahoman shows the same parking meters experienced a systemwide meltdown when they were installed in Chicago two years ago.

A “glitch” was blamed for that breakdown in 2009, which shut down 250 of 556 of the high-tech meters produced for downtown Chicago by Florida-based Cale Parking Systems. The breakdown upset Chicago commuters who were concerned about getting ticketed, and the resulting controversy prompted Bloomberg News Service to question whether the broken meters hampered the city's unsuccessful bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

During the winter of 2010 the Chicago meters' buttons froze due to extreme cold. More recently, the meters were discovered earlier this year to have synchronization problems that shaved up to two minutes off time purchased by motorists.

A call to Cale was not returned on Monday. Michael Clark, with the Oklahoma City Public Works department, said officials with the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority were aware of the meters' breakdown in Chicago and inquiries determined those problems were addressed and have not re-emerged since.

Clark said city officials considered bids by six vendors, and chose Cale because of the flexibility of the meters. The multi-space meters can handle up to 20 spaces, though Clark expects no single meter will handle more than 10 spaces. He said the machines can accept coin or credit card payments, and they can be set for various times and rates with a simple strike of a key.

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