MasterCard helps drivers find the good (deals) side of parking meters

Wed, 2015-07-08 06:00 -- Kevin Ebi

Nobody likes paying for parking, but soon it could actually pay to park on the streets of Las Vegas. Under a new program, parking meters will do double duty, printing coupons good at nearby merchants along with the receipt for the parking fee.

As parking becomes increasingly scarce, cities are installing more meters and expanding the hours people have to pay. They’re supposed to be good for businesses and drivers, but few see them as such. The new program, called City Connector, is designed to help with that. It’s a joint effort of Council Lead Partner MasterCard and Parkeon, which manufactures the meters. (See a video of the new meters in action below.)

Las Vegas is first test case
Las Vegas is putting the interactive parking meters to work right away in Container Park, its hot new retail district. Sixteen of the new meters are up and running now, allowing drivers to select a special deal from one of several categories: arts, food and beverage, fashion, home décor and other.

The early reviews seem positive. One of the first drivers to use the system got a coupon for free chocolate when he parked. Who wouldn’t like that?

While small businesses in some cities complain that parking meters drive customers away, MasterCard and Parkeon see the interactive meters as being retail hubs. By providing people hyperlocal information and special deals, the idea is that the meters encourage people to shop. The shopping guide is available to anyone who walks past the meter, not just those parking at it.

Making the best of parking meters
Even though drivers hate the idea of paying to park, more cities are finding the meters to be necessary. Studies find that even pay surface lots are a terrible investment for cities, generating the lowest return of any possible investment on the land.

By charging people for street parking, people tend to park only as long as they have to, allowing a greater number of drivers to make use of the space over the course of a day. Despite the complaints from drivers and some businesses, studies show the meters are actually good for both.

Old Pasadena, Calif., found that even traditional parking meters actually boosted business sales. It used a portion of the parking fees to pay for improvements and more people shopped in the area since more parking spaces were more likely to be available. Parking meters worked when other revitalization projects didn’t.

But even there it took a while for people to realize the benefits. Perhaps with the instant gratification of coupons and the shopping it inspires, Las Vegas may see the benefits even faster. Based on the results of the new program there, MasterCard and Parkeon aim to bring their driver-friendly meters to more cities across the U.S. and Europe. At the very least, by giving drivers something tangible for their parking fee, it may help ease some of the complaints.


Kevin Ebi is a staff writer and social media coordinator for the Council. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.

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