New parking meters take VCU students by surprise

February 15, 2013

Video story by Trey Herbert
Online story by Shelly Andrews
VCU InSight

RICHMOND, Va.—Virginia Commonwealth University students and faculty members returned from their winter break in mid-January to find areas of Main and Cary Streets now had pay stations and signs that read, “Pay to Park.”

These streets had traditionally been free two hour parking from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.  That same two hours will now cost $1.00 and a bit of time to complete the transaction.

“I think it’s really inconvenient.  I pay enough money for gas as it is and I really don’t want to pay extra for parking meters,” said Hung Tran, a VCU student who says she usually parks on Main or Cary Streets.

“It’s really hard to find parking in VCU in general and when I find a spot I rather not have to pay for it so I have to go somewhere else now.”

The City of Richmond installed the same pay stations last April along already metered areas of Broad, Marshall and Ninth Streets as a trial run to see how the new machines would go over.  The Main and Cary Streets pay stations were installed in late December, but not activated until mid-January.

Steve Berkin, Richmond’s City Parking Manager, said this gap in time was to give everyone time to adjust.

“After we installed the signs we did not activate the machine for another week so that people would see the signs,” said Berkin. “We wanted to give those people the opportunity to ask questions or of our officers to inquire about it.”

This change from the old coin meters to new solar powered digital pay stations seems like just an upgrade.  However, the pay stations are being installed in places that were free parking around the VCU campus.

According to Berkin, VCU asked for help with parking along Main and Cary Streets three years ago.  VCU wanted a solution to help create turnover for people that have short term on campus and push students and faculty into the nearby parking decks.

The new pay stations are solar powered and accept cash as well as credit cards.  It takes a few seconds for the screen to turn on and then there are prompts to make it easy to pay.  Once the payment is complete, the pay station prints out a receipt that the driver must display on their dash. Berkin says that the city will be replacing the coin meters with the new pay stations over the next year.