New parking meters considered, public will get chance to weigh in


MISSOULA, Mont. - Stopping to park your car in downtown Missoula and getting out to drop coins in the meter could soon change.

Paying at a parking meter may become a little easier. Instead of having one option of paying with coins, you could have multiple options like debit card, credit card or paying over the phone. You could even pay through a mobile app. Paying by coin would still be available.

This isn't a set plan but the Missoula Parking Commission is looking into getting rid of the old meters and replacing them with new ones.

"I've looked at a lot of cities. Most cities have moved way beyond the old mechanical meters. In fact, you no longer can get parts for them, so we're behind in that. They are probably about 60 years old, they're mechanical, they're very affected by weather," said Director of the Missoula Parking Commission Anne Guest.

The Commission will present a plan next week to modernize Missoula meters and they want to know what residents think.

"I think having machines with a card reader could be kind of risky. If they still use cash, that's great. I would definitely stick with cash," said a resident.

"I think it's a good idea. Bigger cities have them now, and it's nice that you don't have to find change, you can use your credit card. They are going to be more accurate too, as keeping the time that you put in," said Missoula resident Ben Powell.

"I'm not a fan of leaving my credit card information places, but at the same time, it would make it more convenient," said Missoula resident Ashley Johnson.

"Just wondering how much it's going to cost the residents to upgrade, if it's going to cost them anything," said Missoula resident Heather Callantine.

We looked in to that question and turns out it actually won't cost residents any money. Taxpayer money is not involved. The Parking Commission is an independent department. They are an enterprise fund and make money off parking meters, fines and monthly leases. That's where money for new meters would come from.

The goal is simple -- "To manage the on street parking better and more effectively," said Guest.

They just need to settle on how best to do it. If the new parking meters go forward, the Parking Commission will analyze whether parking fees will go up, which would be a likely possibility.

The public can give opinions next week on Wednesday, April 16 at 6 p.m. at the Holiday Inn.