Private parking meters could be coming to Jackson if the city ends up striking a deal with a St. Louis-based company. The long-discussed upgrades could reinvigorate a source of revenue for the city, but it comes with its own frustrations for drivers.
The Jackson City Council is trying to work out a deal with Hudson and Associates, and while there are still some misgivings, the city is ready for a change. Many of the parking meters aren’t functioning, and a private company promising to rebuild, maintain, and administrate the system is attractive, according to a report by the Jackson Free Press.
Parking Meters Might Need a New Maid
Parking meters in Jackson are in serious disrepair, and the city isn’t keen on footing the bill for an expensive facelift. Hudson and Associates, a company that specializes in reconstructing meters, is proposing to replace “outdated, coin-based meters with modern, digital currency-capable machines” in return for a share of the revenue, according to the Free Press.
Hudson and Associates has suggested a ten-year rental agreement where Jackson would receive a check each month in addition to a year-end assessment based on how much money the private company brings in. They would pay to renovate the parking meters upfront, assuming the risk of the upgrades.
The new system will allow people to pay with cards and cell phones, and promises to increase revenue significantly, plus provide Jackson with a fixed amount of money even if the plan doesn’t pan out. Currently the city nets, even with broken meters, around $200,000 a year. That would rise to a quarter of a million dollars guaranteed, and possibly more.
How Private Meters Have Worked Elsewhere
One of the most well-known, private parking meter takeovers occurred in Chicago, and the contract has been questioned since its signing. The city received $1.2 billion in exchange for an exclusive, 75-year contract that actually saw Chicago billed for new parking garages, street closures, and lost revenue, according to a tell-all published by The Atlantic in 2014.
City council members in Jackson believe things will go differently in their city, pointing to Hudson and Associates’ success in St. Louis, Missouri and Oxford, Mississippi. Those cities have seen a significant rise in parking meter revenue, due to Hudson and Associates upgrades and price hikes.
Jackson’s City Council is proceeding carefully though, and Hudson and Associates’ buy-in cost is considerable. Whether the plan goes through or not, the meters will get updated eventually, and those expenses could get passed on to you.
How This Could Affect You
The city is being proactive in maintaining some of its rights in the deal. Parking services disputes would likely still be handled by the municipal justice system, even though Hudson and Associates offered a private alternative. One councilman also told the Free Press he wanted to ensure “we don't leave money on the table,” like Chicago did in its haste to get a large sum upfront.
The biggest change, however, could be in your wallet. The current meters cost $.50 an hour, but new expenses could rise to a dollar or more according to a Mississippi News Now report from November. In St. Louis, another city that contracted Hudson and Associates, the cost is set to rise again in 2017.
Parking meters can be a big source of frustration, especially in congested areas and when they’re highly enforced. The city is proceeding carefully but complications related to installation, disputes over enforcement, and more could still arise. Traffic might get pushed towards cheaper or free spaces, and congestion might worsen, leading to an environment ripe for car accidents.
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