An Isthmus reader responding to a report in this space about Madison's new multi-space parking meters (Watchdog, 3/26/10) notes an "annoying windfall for the city" in how the new system works: "If you pay for two hours but only use one, somebody else comes along and the city collects a double fee for the hour."
True dat, confirms parking guru Bill Knobeloch: "No multi-space system I know of allows piggybacking on another parker's payment. In a pay-by-space system like ours or Milwaukee's, each transaction starts at zero reset."
This also means that a parker who pays for an hour and returns 40 minutes later to plug the meter for another hour would lose any remaining time on the initial buy. Curses!
Advises Knobeloch, "It would be best to watch the time on your receipt and plug when there is little or no time left." But the good news is that parkers can add time from any multi-space meter. "So if you had walked a few blocks and didn't want to walk back, don't worry about it: Go to the closest meter and use the space number from your receipt."
Under the new system, existing time limits remain in effect. "The purpose of meters is to provide turnover," says Knobeloch. "We don't want parkers to stay over the time limit of the meter. That's what the parking garages are for."
Wait a minute: Will the city be using credit card payment info to nab parkers who overstay their legal welcome? Stefanie Niesen, the city's parking enforcement czar, says officers will still be catching violators the old-fashioned way, by marking tires with chalk. But if a ticket is challenged, she could check to see if the payment info supports the citation.
Be careful out there.