USA TODAY’s Jeffereson Graham takes a look at a new high-tech parking reservation system at the Westfield Century City Mall.
LOS ANGELES â The last coin-operated meter was yanked out of the Portland, Oregon downtown area in 2016 and now resides in a local historical museum.
Welcome to the future, where you’ll never have to scrounge for quarters and may soon add parking to your list of monthly subscriptions, after Netflix and Spotify.Â
Today, visitors to the downtown area’s 1,900Â parking metersÂ use the Portland “Parking Kitty,” a high-tech meter that connects to a smartphone app. The app purrs when you payÂ and “meows” 3Â minutes before your time expires to remind you to get back to the car orÂ to request and pay for additional time.
High-tech parking isn’t unique to Portland, and it’s probably coming to a meter near you.Â Coin meters have given over to digital meters in eight of the top 10 U.S. cities, with various levels of sophistication. Meters that began withÂ pay-by-phone have expanded to a current mix of pay via credit card and/or apps.Â
The next phase of the technology, which uses cameras to automaticallyÂ track your parking via license plates and then charges your account, has now started to roll out in some cities. It’s already raised some concerns over privacy.Â
The American Civil Liberties Union, on its website, notes that license plate readers are used for way more than making parking easier. They’re also tracking our every move.
The readers “have the potential to create permanent records of virtually everywhere any of us has driven, radically transforming the consequences of leaving home to pursue private life, and opening up many opportunities for abuse.”
For cities, the incentive is big: higher revenues and fewer human resources devoted to checking meters. And the apps (ParkMe, SpotHero) also give drivers…