Downtown Tulsa Plans For Parking Meter Updates

Managing Editor

City councilors are preparing to decide what the future of downtown Tulsa’s parking meter system will look like.

“The downtown parking meter system is an embarrassment to the city,” said Mayor G.T. Bynum during his presentation to the Tulsa City Council Urban and Economic Development Committee on Jan. 10.

Bynum’s comments included clarification on some elements of his proposal that had been previously misconstrued in the media.

For one, he said, any proposed changes do not involve an increase in the hourly parking rate of $1 or the current hours of parking meter operation at this time.
However, “It’s also important that the public recognizes the true reason for the parking meters,” he said.

The money received from parking meters does not benefit city operations but goes toward the replacement of broken meters and signage, Bynum continued.

To ensure that practice continues, on Jan. 19, the Mayor signed an executive order that ensures that money paid into meters goes directly toward meter improvements and repairs.

So then, why do parking meters exist in downtown?

Meters encourage vehicle movement, or “churn,” in order to allow shops and restaurants to have regular open parking spots available near their stores, said Bynum.

This issue was again brought to light recently when business owners approached the Downtown Coordinating Council and the City of Tulsa in order to address the street parking system in light of the growing foot and car traffic in downtown Tulsa, including in the nighttime hours.

“My team has spent nine months working on this,” said Bynum. “We want to fix the system in a comprehensive way.”

In line with a renewed focus on consistently operational parking meters, Tom Baker, executive director of the Downtown Coordinating Council, discussed the addition of a digital payment option through mobile parking app Parkmobile.

The free app is widely used in many large cities and allows patrons to pay for parking with their smartphones.

The app also notifies users when their time allotment is expiring and allows them to extend their parking time. And for those who save their credit card on the app, they will actually receive a decrease in their hourly parking rate, Baker said.

Individuals who do not have a smartphone will be able to use an automated 1-800 phone service.

Even with this new mobile meter service, other methods of payment will still be available, namely coin and credit card payment, said Baker.

The other aspect that city officials hope to address quickly is signage for parking and parking meter locations with a focus on creating signs with consistent verbiage and icons in order to decrease confusion.

While the overhaul of the current system will not take place immediately, the long-term goal is to have the 30-year-old single parking meters updated to new parking pay stations, like those which are currently located in the Tulsa Arts District, said Bynum.

“This is not the final step to get to the system, but it’s an incredible step forward to get to that.”

Updated 02-03-2018

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