MINNEAPOLIS - With a few lightning-fast turns of his wrench, 47-year city employee P.J. Peterson ushered in a new age of parking in Minneapolis.
Peterson and an associate removed the last traditional coin-only parking meter still standing in city limits, on Washington Avenue south between 15th Avenue South and Interstate 35W.
It was the last step in a two-year project to update the city's aging single-meter fleet to new, computerized meters that control multiple spaces.
The computer meters are "obviously popular with people who don't want to be chasing around on the floor of their car for coins, and it's good for the city because we don't have to make so many trips to empty the meters out," said City Council member Sandy Colvin Roy.
Colvin-Roy says 55 percent of the 5.7 million people who park on the street in Minneapolis each year now use credit cards to plug their meter.
Those computerized meters also give parkers a message when a zone is closed, saving them from a ticket or tow. For the city, computerized meters allow them to declare event parking rates for Twins, Vikings or Timberwolves games for additional revenue. Those meters also send messages when they are on the blink so technicians can respond and repair them more quickly. The new stations are solar powered, so crews don't have to constantly replace batteries.
Those who may worry that the new technology might pass an employee like P.J. Peterson by, don't. After working the streets of Minneapolis since 1966, he's retiring and hanging up his wrench at the end of the year.
Like the old coin-only meters he worked on, it's time to let a younger model do the job.
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