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Chris Ainsworth: Watch the parking meters

Parking downtown! Calamity!

Where are we gonna put our cars once the Odgen’s own guest lot is stuffed to the gills with borrowed Teslas, sitting there waiting while their drivers awkwardly nurse microbrews as they plop up and down on the seesaw behind Park on Fremont, talking pivots and disruption and burn rate?

Were it not for the Good Doctor’s makeshift parking lot over on Sixth Street soaking up overflow, folks might be forced to walk more than a quarter-mile, or God forbid, park on Seventh Street. Who knows what hell will break loose once that misused patch of dirt is fenced off!

Oh, did you hear that we’re getting new parking meters downtown?

This week: The Parking Column!

The whole “let’s modernize the old-school parking meters downtown because who still has change these days since the homeless took over the intersections” debate has been floating around for some time now, but in February the Las Vegas City Council finally approved an initial $1.45 million contract that will allow industry kings Parkeon to install 233 Strada Rapide meters (painted Magic Blue) throughout the neighborhood. As a single Strada can manage multiple spaces, 1,216 traditional meters will be removed in the process.

In a gracious boon from on high, 125 of the existing metered spaces downtown will become entirely free. (See our map with the online version of this column at

Once all of the old meters are ripped out of the sidewalk, where do they go? Is there a parking meter graveyard out in the desert, or are they simply broken down and recycled? Give a crafty individual a thousand of those things, a blowtorch and a button of peyote and I’ll bet you’d end up with one hell of a Burning Man project.

The Strada meters are actually kinda slick. Each unit (at $5,695 a pop) incorporates a display, credit-card reader and a 3G cellular modem, all powered by a solar cell and battery setup that allows for placement anywhere, regardless of infrastructure. One hundred fifty-eight of the meters will have a small gray-scale LCD screen, while the remaining 75 (at an additional $1,200 each) will feature full color 7-inch displays and an extended alpha-numeric keyboard.

Now that the deals have been inked, both the city and Parkeon are moving ahead at full steam and installation of the new hardware is set to begin next month.

But wait, that’s not even the neat part.

Last year, Parkeon partnered up with ParkMe, a data broker specializing in comprehensive, real-time parking availability and pricing. As a result, the moment a parking space governed by a Parkeon meter is freed up, ParkMe knows.

Founded in 2007 and flush from a round of funding earlier this year, ParkMe (formerly Parking in Motion) has been slowly building up a massive parking database, using it to feed both analytic data to parking providers (like, say, the City of Las Vegas) and live parking information to the users of its online service. The ParkMe database features more than 25,000 locations in more than 500 cities.

Using ParkMe’s service, users can look up a destination and view rates, parking locations and garages, and even availability of individual spaces. Once the new meters are live, we’ll always know whether that one particular sweet spot on Sixth Street is taken or not.

Once the initial install and testing phases are complete, the city will eventually roll out additional functionality allowing users to pay for and refill a meter directly from the ParkMe app.

If you’d like to try ParkMe before the new meters roll out (most of the downtown garages are already listed), the free service is currently offered as both an iOS and Android app, and online at

Oh yeah, and the new Strada meters? They’ll still take coins, too, if that’s your thing.

CHRIS AINSWORTH is a native Las Vegan and tech dilettante. Find him on Twitter (@driph) or at