Start memorizing your license plate number: Baltimore to replace 15-year-old parking meters

Bobby Rydell Williams, who works as a chaffeur, studies the instructions Tuesday for new parking meters at a Jones Falls Expressway lot. They require a driver to enter a license plate number.

Start memorizing your license plate number — or at least snap a photo of it. You’re going to need those digits to pay for street parking in Baltimore.

New parking meters are replacing the old, city officials said Tuesday, and will require drivers to enter in their vehicles’ tag numbers during transactions at metered spaces. The change will effectively free those who pay to park from having to return to their cars to leave receipts on their dashboards.


The transition from the city’s 15-year-old metered parking program to the new, receipt-free version comes at a cost of about $5 million, or about $5,850 per meter, said Pete Little, the executive director for the Parking Authority of Baltimore City.

He said the shift will revolutionize parking in the city.


“If you park regularly in D.C. or you pay by phone in New York City, hopefully, you’d be able to use those major vendors here.”

—  Pete Little, executive director, Parking Authority of Baltimore City

“It really is more convenient, not having to go back to your car and then walk to your destination,” he said. “It’s also great for motorcycle riders — this solves that problem of how you display your ticket on the dash.”

Little said the city is also working to bring cellphone applications such as ParkMobile and MobileNOW! to the city starting next year, enabling users to pay for parking by smartphone and locate available spaces ahead of time.

“We’re looking to offer up multiple options in the city,” he said. “If you park regularly in D.C. or you pay by phone in New York City, hopefully, you’d be able to use those major vendors here.”

He said Towson University has ticket-free meters, and cities such as Pittsburgh do, too. The meters accept payment by card or coins.

The new meters come from California-based IPS Group Inc., a company that will also handle their maintenance, Little said.

The city Department of Transportation will handle meter enforcement, he said.

The first ones have already been placed in a lot under the Jones Falls Expressway, near the site of the Baltimore Farmers’ Market, although those do not yet possess the receipt-free feature.

Several of those meters displayed rates Tuesday of $1 per hour from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. and $7 total to park overnight from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. Rates at city meters vary by the level of demand for parking at a location, city officials said. The highest hourly rate is $3.25, while the lowest is 75 cents, according to the parking authority’s website. Rates are evaluated every six months to see if they need to be adjusted.


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Representatives from IPS and the transportation department did not respond to requests for comment.

Little said some 900 meters will replace the current ones over the next few years. The first 100 will appear downtown over the next couple of months starting near the lot under the expressway.

The city Board of Estimates approved in May an initial $5 million award to IPS for the meters. The meters were selected “due to offering lower cost to purchase and operate,” according to the board’s minutes.

The contract with IPS replaces that with CALE, which had provided meters for the city since 2004. Little said the CALE meters became less reliable over time.

The board approved Wednesday an additional $456,000 expenditure to IPS that will cover maintenance for two years, with a two-year renewal option.

Democratic City Council President Brandon Scott, the board chairman, said the new meters will bring much-needed change to drivers’ experiences in Baltimore.


“I’m encouraged that the parking authority is moving to adopt more up-to-date technology and taking steps to replace parking meters that are broken and up to 15 years old,” he said in a statement.

For the record

An earlier version of this report misidentified which agency will be responsible for installing the meters.