The End of Parking Meters in Columbus

Outdated meters have been replaced with electronic stations that allow drivers to pay from anywhere and make parking enforcement simpler.

Suzanne Goldsmith
Columbus Monthly
Decommissioned parking meters fill the back of a pickup truck as Columbus Parking Services workers remove them along North High Street.

If you tried to park on the street in Columbus recently, you might have found yourself wondering where the meters went. In May, crews from the city swept through town, removing more than 3,000 parking meters.

Many of the meters, says Robert Ferrin, Columbus’ assistant director for parking services, were becoming obsolete. The computers inside the decade-old devices were linked to the cloud through 2G technology, which is being eliminated by most carriers. Instead of replacing the meters, the city decided to install 145 multispace kiosks. (A few newer meters will remain in service.)

Due to the popularity of the Park Cbus app, Ferrin says, “Folks are now much more comfortable using their license plate as their credential to pay. So we wanted to reinforce that with a pay-by-plate parking kiosk.”

When drivers identify their car by plate number when parking or purchasing a residential parking permit, the city can use cameras mounted on enforcement vehicles to ensure compliance and issue tickets.

Christal Smith, left, BK Ashenafi and Chase Martin with Columbus Parking Services, remove meters along North High Street on May 18.

The kiosks are remotely programmable, so city staff can change time limits or rate changes from anywhere, and drivers can pay for parking or add time on their parking space from the app or any kiosk in the city—as long as they remember their license plate and the zone where the car is parked.

The kiosks allow drivers to pay for parking in a variety of ways: by tapping or inserting a credit card or using a watch or payment app. There are also text-to-pay and call-to-pay options and signage with QR codes that will take drivers to a website for guest checkout. The kiosks also accept nickels, dimes and quarters.

Ferrin says street parking revenue, as high as $7 million or $8 million annually before 2020, dropped by 85 percent during the pandemic but is gradually returning to health. He does not anticipate the new parking system will affect that, although it will reduce maintenance costs.

And he’ll be glad to see the meters gone from the scene. “We believe it leads to a cleaner, more appealing streetscape.”

Keeping the Meters Running

Robert Ferrin, Columbus’ parking rep, says the city will send most of the decommissioned meters to the scrapyard but retained a few for the community. Columbus Monthly reached out to a few community members to find out if they could make use of an old parking meter. (Interested? Write to parkingservices@columbus.gov; supply is limited.) Rebecca Rhinehart, the theater director for Bexley City Schools, responded quickly.

“I would totally use an old meter in plays,” she wrote. Such a realistic prop, she says, “can indicate where a scene is taking place all by itself: We instantly understand that we are on a street.” She’s used a fire hydrant in several plays.

Rhinehart also offered, just for fun, some other ideas for old meter uses. Here are a few:

  • Spray paint it gold and use it as a trophy for some sort of Columbus city award
  • A great and practical time-out corner decoration
  • Install it in your driveway and make a buck off family and friends
  • Use it to remind yourself to get up from the computer once in a while—one-hour parking maximum

This story is from the July issue of Columbus Monthly