New smart parking meters in Athens aim to help improve parking efficiency, although parking in the city may remain a problem in the eyes of citizens.

Athens City Council discussed and passed two ordinances that would allow for the purchasing of the new meters, according to a previous Post report. The purchase, valued at $460,000, will allow for 526 new meters to be installed in the city. An additional ordinance will issue $460,000 in notes. The notes will be used for bonds, which will finance the project.

The cost for maintaining the meters will be about the same, Mayor Steve Patterson said in a previous Post report. Costs for training and installing the meters should be covered.

The new smart parking meters project has been in the works for a while now, according to a previous Post report. The plan involves usage of an app that can display available parking locations and allow people to pay the meter online. Athens director of Public Works and city engineer Robert C. Heady, said that the city will be ready to install those new meters.

“We have installed conduit on many of our recent street projects to allow for installation of fiber optic lines to be the backbone of a connected system,” Heady said in an email. 

Fred Coventry, an Athens resident, likes the idea of an app being tied to the new parking meters. He hopes that it will help people find parking easier, despite the demand for parking in Athens.

“I especially like the idea of being able to find a spot, although I kind of question how useful that will be because once a spot opens someone usually parks in it,” Coventry said. “I don’t know if that will be super helpful, but it’s better than driving up and down the road looking for something.”

Parking in Athens has been a problem for years. Coventry moved to Athens four years ago and has seen both improvements and roadblocks made in terms of parking availability. Even though apps make parking easier, it doesn’t solve the problem of there being few parking spaces to begin with.

“About half of the time when I come here, there’s nowhere to park,” Coventry said. “They don’t seem to have done much to improve that. In fact, they’ve taken out two lots to build a new building at the bottom of the hill.”

Janis Tysko, another resident of Athens, tries to avoid parking uptown so she doesn’t have to deal with meters. Many of her friends don’t park uptown until summer when Ohio University students are gone and finding parking is easier.

Tysko said that she is supportive of the new parking meters and finds the change necessary.

“I think it’s fine,” Tysko said. “I guess it updates our city.”

Even with smart meters in place that make parking easier, the problem of limited parking still exists. Most meters are available for citizens, but they go quickly.

“There seem to be a lot of loading meters,” Tysko said. “But those are up usually at two or so and so you can park there afterwards.”

It’s difficult for the city to have more solutions to parking since development space is limited. Alternative solutions should be explored by the city, Coventry said.

“There just aren’t a lot of opening spaces where they can make parking lots or garages,” Coventry said. “If they could find somewhere, or even offer a little more in the way of shuttle services for further out so you could park further away but still get there if it’s raining or fifteen degrees below zero, I think people would embrace that.”