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Binghamton University installs solar-powered parking meters

By Journal Staff


VESTAL — Parking has recently gone green at Binghamton University.

In April, the university installed five new solar-powered, pay-by-space parking meters around campus serving multiple parking spaces.

The new units replace older, battery-powered models, says Daniel Chambers, deputy chief of police at Binghamton University. The problem with the old ones, he says, is that the nine-volt batteries had to be replaced several times a year and there was no easy way to link the machines together.

The new solar-powered units, manufactured by Mount Laurel, N.J.–based Metric Group, Inc. (dba Metric Parking), not only run on a solar-charged battery, but also are connected via wireless and cellular technology, Chambers says. That improves efficiency for those operating the system and service for those using the system, he contends.

In terms of operating efficiency, the units are set up to notify the operator if there are any issues — if the machine is out of receipt paper, if the cash vault was tampered with, or if other issues crop up, Chambers says. Those little nuisances can add up to big headaches if not discovered quickly, and the new system notifies him right away of any problems, he says.

For users, the benefits are much more noticeable. One of the first things users might notice, he says, is that they can pay with something besides a handful of quarters. “They also take credit cards and debit cards,” Chambers says of the machines, which also accept bills.

Unlike the old machines where the parking receipt needed to be displayed on the vehicle dashboard, the new system allows users to punch in their parking-space number when they pay, Chambers says. Then the system has a record of what parking spot the car is in and how long the space is paid for, meaning users don’t have to walk back to their car after paying to place the receipt on the dash.

In addition, because the machines are all linked to each other, users can add time to their parking space from any of the machines, according to Chambers. All they need is their transaction number from their receipt. 

The machines also give receipts for those who need to turn them in on their expense accounts, he adds.

Currently, the machines serve four major parking areas with lots ranging in size from about 25 spaces to nearly 70, Chambers says. Each machine can serve up to 1,000 parking spaces.

The university is looking to add more of the solar-powered machines to its Innovative Technologies complex, he says, parts of which are currently under construction.

The machines just make good sense, he says. They provide a better customer experience, and “you’re not throwing away 80 to 160 nine-volt batteries a year,” he adds.

Metric Parking notes other benefits of its solar-powered machines including increased revenue, reduced enforcement costs, reduced system collection and maintenance costs, and the ability to utilize information related to space usage for future parking plans. Binghamton University did not disclose how much it spent to install the meters.


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