Parking discounts for residents will produce more money, less traffic, cleaner air, and a cooler planet.

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Cities Need to Learn These 5 Lessons About Parking Meters

A parking expert explains how to updated meter systems can improve communities.

American cities are realizing the importance of an efficient parking system. And as a result,  new technology, smartphone apps and other innovations cropping up across the country.

But as UCLA’s “prophet of parking” Donald Shoup notes in ACCESS magazine, there are a few simple ways municipalities can get more residents on board with pesky parking regulations. The author of the 2005 book “The High Cost of Free Parking” shares five strategies that American cities should implement in order to making parking meters popular.

Use pay-by-plate technology
While many communities have replaced traditional parking meters with designated kiosks that enable drivers to pay by credit card or cash, Shoup suggests more cities should embrace tying a credit card to a license plate and allowing people to pay via smartphone.

Though more common in Europe, pay-by-plate systems have emerged in several U.S. cities, including Pittsburgh. Two years ago, Pittsburgh rolled out a system that asked drivers to submit their plate numbers at the kiosks and then pay by credit card or cash. The concept removes the process of printing new receipts to display on car dashboards and allows drivers to re-park their cars in the same zone without repeating the transaction. Police officers can also scan a plate to see if its driver has paid rather than searching for payment receipts. The new system has led to an increase in parking revenue for Pittsburgh, according to Shoup, as well as a decline in tickets issued as more people are using the easy process rather than taking the risk of receiving a ticket.

Offer discounts for greener cars
Environmental concern is increasingly playing a bigger role in new government initiatives, and Shoup explains that cities should implement green incentives into parking systems. For example, drivers can receive a discount for smaller cars that take up less space. By rewarding tiny sets of wheels, the city encourages residents to reduce the amount of emissions — saving on environmental cost.

Charge fees based on size
Streets come in all different sizes and so do parking spaces. Which is why Shoup suggests cities consider charging fees based on car length. Aside from the fact that smaller cars tend to be more fuel efficient, Shoup adds that they enable more cars to park in the same amount of space than large vehicles allow for.  In many cases, street parking does not have lines to demarcate car spaces, which is why charging more for larger cars would discourage people from driving bigger cars in the city. “Most people who can afford to buy a longer car can probably afford to pay more to park it,” Shoup says.

Give residents a price break
Members of a community already pay taxes for local street maintenance and municipal parking garages, so rewarding them with a resident discount is not too much of a stretch. Local discounts can also help garner support for adding more parking meters to manage the system. Miami Beach, for example, gives its citizens a lower meter rate than non-residents and visiting tourist ($1 versus $1.75 per hour). That system also encourages locals to shop closer to home to receive the rate — ultimately decreasing driving and congestion.

Be charitable with earnings
While much of collecting parking fees is about making more revenue, Shoup adds that it can take on a different type of investment. Communities can be more innovative by donating portions to local nonprofits or park rehabilitation programs. For example, the Ventura, Calif., neighborhood used parking revenue to pay for safety patrol, as well as to implement public WiFi.

MORE: How an Innovative Parking Program May Cut Downtown Traffic by One Third

Source: CityLab

Courtney is a writer and reporter based in Brooklyn, N.Y. She previously worked for Time.com and TIME International.