Greater City Providence

City to step up parking meter enforcement

Did I choose the photo above to be a zing against the city on parking enforcement? It was honestly the handiest photo I had around of a Multi Meter. It does however highlight a point, the city needs to maintain its infrastructure in order to realize profit from it.

The Multi Meters, which regulate parking on an entire block or portion of block rather than having to install a meter at every space, were first installed several years ago. Anecdotal observation shows that they’ve had their share of problems, and I often walk by people scratching thier heads and staring at them, trying to figure them out. Obviously, the meters need to work if the city is to realize revenue from them.

Of course parking, and paying for it, is often a lightning rod of a topic. I think people can imagine where I stand on the issue. There are rules about where, when, and for how long one can park ones car on public roadways. There are penalties for not obeying those rules. Don’t want a ticket, don’t violate those rules (or, you could walk, bike, and/or take the bus and avoid parking altogether).

In the Press Release below, the ProvPass is pointed to as an option to having to lug quarters around with you everywhere. The ProvPass, which is a debit style card for use at parking meters, was introduced with much fanfare by the prior administration. To this date it is only available at City Hall, the Public Safety Complex, and AAA. The cards come in $10 and $20 increments and are not rechargable, you are told to throw them away when they are empty.

The City should work with RIPTA to create a City Card for the Providence Metro along the lines of Seattle’s ORCA. As Commuter Rail penetrates deeper into the state, RIPTA will need to coordinate fare systems with the MBTA, ideally creating a smart card fare product that will work on RIPTA buses (and eventually streetcars) as well as MBTA commuter rail, bus, subway, and ferries. That smart card could then be expanded to work at Providence parking meters and other merchants.

Of course this won’t all happen in the next week or two, in the meantime the city says they will be working to expand the availablity of ProvPasses. RIPTA should tag along as the city seeks these new sales outlets for the ProvPass to get their exisiting fare products available at more locations.

City of Providence Press Release:

Feed That Meter: City to step up parking enforcement

PROVIDENCE, RI – The City of Providence will soon step up enforcement of its parking laws and begin issuing tickets to vehicles parked at expired parking meters or those that exceed posted curbside parking limits for all hours that parking regulations are in effect.

The City’s current parking ordinance will be fully enforced from Monday to Saturday, 8AM to 6PM, in accordance with the city’s existing parking enforcement ordinance. Posted one- and two-hour parking limits will be enforced and drivers need to “feed the meter” during the enforcement time posted on signs.

Fully enforcing the city’s parking ordinance has the potential to generate much needed new revenue. Last year, parking meters generated $1.3 million. The city is currently losing at least 35 percent of its meter revenue annually due to under-enforcement.

Full enforcement was made possible in part by the city’s recent agreement with Public Employees Local 1033, which will create flexible work schedules for Parking Enforcement Officers without additional overtime. In the past, the city did not issue parking tickets on Saturdays and weekdays after about 3 p.m. to avoid overtime costs that would exceed income generated by parking enforcement.

Drivers don’t need to carry quarters in their pockets: the City offers a smart card that can be used to pay meters throughout the City. The ProvPass parking card is available in $10 and $20 denominations. Users swipe the card in the meter when they arrive and when they leave. The meter calculates the amount of time used and deducts the appropriate amount from the card.

The ProvPass can be purchased at City Hall, the Public Safety Complex or at the downtown AAA office. In May, the City will expand and promote the program to make cards even more readily available.

Please check out posted signs when you park in Providence to avoid being ticketed!

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • Jef, Jef, Jef. Come on now! We have an opportunity to create convoluted redundancies and place firewalls between efforts that are tightly connected in reality but worlds apart in the political world.

    This opportunity must be seized with reckless abandon!

  • Elsewhere, I referred to the ProvPass cards as only available at the AAA. But, really, that’s the only place you can buy them with a credit/debit card like in the modern world. Now I remember standing on line only to find out “cash or check only”, just like your Mama.

    Also, MultiMeters only take change or ProvPass, right, no bills or credit cards. Correct me if I’m wrong.

  • If its going to be more heavily enforced then they need to look at ticketing all the cars who park in and around the medians, islands and “no parking” zones at LaSalle Square during a show at the Dunk; in the “no parking” zone on College Street across from the Judiciary; along the “no parking” strip of Waterman next to the First Baptist Church and the University Club on the East Side… just to name a few.

  • So if they only take quarters or ProvPass, and you don’t have a ProvPass, and the only place to get one is AAA, do you leave your car without any money in the meter, get a pass and come back?? Something seems backwards here.

    Let’s get a bit more modern here and have something that takes bills, cards, etc. at these stations.

  • I walk by the Muni Meters every day, but I’ve never actually used one. If I remember, I’ll investigate more closely this afternoon.

  • meters are a great source of funding, but you have to fund the budget to maintain them and we don’t (and as a side note, i’m pretty sure they laid off the head of parking to “save money”)

    if we can’t manage any business enterprise because we take every dollar of revenue and spend it elsewhere, we will never get out of this hole… you gotta spend money to make money is the saying for a reason.

  • Regular credit and debit cards work on those block meters too. But you’re right, the instructions aren’t user friendly at all.

  • So can you buy a ProvPass card, not unlike a Dunkin Donuts card, and load it up via online, or have it auto recharge the card when you drop below a certain amount? If you always have to go to city hall or AAA to put money on your card–that’s just not sustainable.

  • Jen, it’s even worse. If you read more carefully, you can’t even recharge it. You just throw it out and buy a new one, but yes, you can only buy it at AAA or City Hall.

    I can’t believe that in order to enforce the parking, they had to pay someone overtime to work after 3 on weekdays and on Saturdays. You’d think there’d be regular shifts and part of the contract for those positions would say you don’t get overtime for your regular shifts.

    But here’s what I’d like to see. In addition to enforcing the meter laws, they need to enforce ALL parking laws, including the much hated 20 or 30 feet from the corner, ESPECIALLY on Federal Hill, where the alleys are so small, you can’t see anything coming until you’re already out in the street.

    I’d like to see a full review of parking in and around the major areas of the city. West Exchange Street has No Parking signs all the way down it, but people park there just like they do in LaSalle Sq for events at the Dunk. Park Street had (maybe it still does) No Parking signs up and down it and people parked there all the time for events at the VMA. What’s the point of having a sign that says “No Parking Any Time” if sometimes you allow people to park there? Heck, even in quiet Elmhurst it’s a problem. Eaton Street between PC and St. Pius Church has signs that say “No Parking School Days” on one side and “No Parking Any Time” on the other. But guess what? The street is packed with cars parallel parked for the noon mass at St. Pius. This makes it difficult, if not dangerous, for the RIPTA bus to get through while other traffic is still moving. Why aren’t those signs enforced?

  • @jen, Seems to me that of all cities… we should be able to negotiate something that allows our parking meters to take Dunkin Donuts cards as payment ;-P

  • There’s no reason why anyone should be paid overtime to routinely enforce parking. The police department has people on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, some on a staggered schedule meaning that off hours, and weekends are part of their regular schedule. Perhaps there’s an institutional issue as to why the patrolmen can’t write tickets, but there doesn’t appear to be a legitimate reason…

    I would guess, based on my own personal experience, that the afterhours enforcement is targeted in areas where people won’t complain as much, like in the neighborhoods (where police do in fact ticket–just ask anyone who lives on the east side) rather than outside restaurants and businesses…

  • I can’t help think there is a more nefarious reason to harass people trying to park on the streets, and it’s to drive them towards the mall. Kinda like closing the arcade.

  • I love a good conspiracy theory, but I’m pretty sure it is all about the budget crisis.

  • Respect for authority is eroded when parking rules that promote neither traffic safety nor sensible allocation of public resources are enforced with gestapo-like intensity – just for the easy money. New mayor, same old stupid, small-minded Providence.

    Yes I am talking about the overnight ban. Also: On miles of streets that are empty of parkers all day, the 2 hour limit is posted only because whiny-ass neighbors do not want anyone at all parking on their block but they could not wangle a full no-parking zone.

    Meanwhile, enforcement of moving violations, which would actually improve safety… too much hassle for the money.

  • I know that (citywide) overnight parking is on the administration’s agenda, it is just a rather packed agenda right now.

    The random all over the place event parking, like LaSalle Square/Dunk or Park Street/VMA and parking too close to a corner, etc. If we see that those are actually enforced, those actually do have an impact on safety.

    But I do agree, our parking systems are a total mess and need a complete top-down overhaul.

  • “The random all over the place event parking… and parking too close to a corner, etc.”

    For such as that I have no problem with strict enforcement.

    Even worse for respect-for-authority than blanket ruthless efficiency are the unwritten exceptions for special people and places. Churchgoers! What is this, 1951? Unless they know to leave my illegally parked car alone while I make my pagan observances.

  • When I first realized that they ignored all the churchgoers’ cars on Eaton were being ignored and watched as cars tried to squeeze through as a bus was also trying to get through (and I’m not talking about a handful of cars, I’m talking about a good 20-30 cars), I was appalled. I realize they’re mostly elderly, but it’s still a safety hazard for them to all have their cars on the street.

  • I looked at the Muni Meters on my way home, they do take credit cards… When they work:

    This isn’t too hard to figure out really. However, this particular location only allows you to buy two hours worth of parking, because it is a 2-hour zone. The “10 Hours Maximum” part is therefore confusing.

    Of course the ideal situation would be for the buttons to clearly tell the story themselves and not force an instruction manual to be installed on the face of the machine. New York’s Metro Card boxes are great in this regard.

    It would also be great if the design of the machine said it all, and extra message didn’t have to be pasted to it.

    They would really benefit from a info-graphics design taking a crack at designing better, more intuitive, instructions.

    There’s also the matter of them being mono-lingual.

  • Now that I’ve looked at and posted these photos, I realize that the out of order one, and the one I actually photographed, are two different types of machines. So if you learn how to use one, and then encounter the other, you have to learn how to use it again. Sigh.

    And, I wonder if the out of order one actually takes credit cards.

  • I have noticed a lot of the (obviously) driver commenters here have a real doom-and-gloom outlook when it comes to parking. Walk, bike, or *gasp* take the bus instead. I’ts really not that difficult.

  • It is not “parking” that folks have a problem with, it is the way the city chooses to deal with parking. Taking the bus doesn’t fix illegal parking, or over time parking, or buildings torn down for surface parking or the lack of resources to come up with better parking solutions. Neither does walking. Or riding a bike.

    This is a group that often believes there is a better way of doing things in the city. Pretending that this isn’t an issue is not the position we usually take, whether we’re drivers, bike riders, or pedestrians.

    And if you’re a pedestrian or a bike rider, or a bus rider and you don’t care about these issues, then you’re part of the problem, because I think they’re all connected.

    Your mileage may vary.

  • Oftentimes, in my personal experience, most of the muni-meters work, however the digital screens are so poorly maintained and visible, scratched, etc that one couldn’t read the digitized instructions if they wanted to. 🙁

  • Many of the parking issues I brought up, while issues for drivers are also issues for bicyclists, pedestrians, and bus riders as well. Think of intersections where cars are parked right up to the corner. Pedestrians have a stake in this as it makes it difficult for traffic to see them when they try to cross the street. Cars will pull up further into the intersection because they can’t see. That poses a risk for bicyclists who are harder to see. It’s less safe for bus riders who are getting off at a stop near one of these intersections.

    I may drive most of the time in the city, but that’s because the bus isn’t a viable solution for me to get where I need to go. I don’t walk because of where I live and because I prefer not to walk in the rain to work (I live a mile from work). I stop at crosswalks and allow people to cross. I come to a complete stop at stop signs. I am not your typical driver. Parking issues affect me both when I’m driving and trying to park (though I do not believe there is a parking crisis or that parking should be free or cheap, though I also don’t believe it should cost $40 to park downtown to go see Britney Spears at the Dunk). Parking issues also affect me when I’m a pedestrian or a bus rider (I rarely bike around the city other than to/from work). Try crossing LaSalle Square when there’s an event at the Dunk and people park on the island and all over the square where you’re not normally supposed to park. It’s dangerous as cars cannot see you as easily because of all the other cars blocking their view.

    The parking problems in the city are that there are too many exceptions made, too many laws unenforced, too many tickets not given. The other side of the problem is Judge Caprio who throws out too many tickets and allows people off scott free.

  • This afternoon I parked on Empire Street in one of the diagonal spots adjacent to Trinity Brewhouse/Theater. The meter on that block would not accept cash or my credit card no matter how many times I tried to swipe it. There didn’t seem to be any directions on the machine other than those on the electronic screen. I could barely read it due to the scratches and glare, but I’m pretty sure it said coins and City Card only. Having neither of these, I tried my luck and came back an hour later to a $25 fine.

    After reading these replies, I now realize that I could have walked half a block down to the machine in front of AS220 and tried my CC there. However, this was not posted anywhere on my machine.

    I know its been said several times in this thread, but if the City is going to step up their parking enforcement, there should be better, more consistent machines. I would have gladly paid the dollar to park, so why not have a system that allows me to do so?

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