As more than 1,000 solar-powered parking meters begin popping up across downtown this summer, Knoxville officials will update the city's rate structure, enforcement and overall parking plan.
"We're going to be looking at the overall policy for charging for meters, where they go, how we charge relative to garages," said Bill Lyons, the city's chief policy officer. "It's really explaining the overall strategy and the implementation with the new meters and making sense of it all. Also, what the rate structure will be and the rationale for that."
Lyons would not go into detail about the changes before he makes a presentation next week at a public meeting. That meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. on May 26 at the East Tennessee History Center, 601 Gay St.
Lyons said the city would be structuring its rates to encourage turnover at the metered parking spaces.
"Obviously you want longer term in the garages and shorter term on the street for turnover in front of retail, and you want to encourage turnover," Lyons said. "It all blends together in terms of the rationale for what's charged when or how."
He also said it would be "unlikely" that the city would change the policy of free parking on nights and weekends at city-owned lots and garages.
The updates come as the city spends $1 million on the new meters across downtown, the Old City and Fort Sanders. The City Council approved the contract with IPS Group in March.
The new solar-powered meters will accept credit car payments and track actual use. The city eventually will roll out technology that will allow drivers to see in real time which meters are in use and which are free. Doing the same for garages is also a possibility down the road, said Rick Emmett, the city's downtown coordinator.
The new meters are replacing existing ones that are more than 20 years old and well past the expected lifespan, city officials have said. The new meters will also replace the parking kiosks in the 100 block of Gay Street.
City Finance Director Jim York told council members in March the meters generate about $300,000 annually in revenue. It's not clear what impact the new rate structure would have on the annual revenue.
"Some replacement costs in the future is what we're having to evaluate, so it's not a revenue increase for garages or anything," Emmett said. "It's really just about maintaining the programs we have and for enforcement, because we're likely to get (the Public Building Authority) on contract to do enforcement and there is a cost associated with that, so we'll need to recoup those costs."
Emmett said the updates would standardize the variety of public parking currently available.
"We have such a hodgepodge of parking down there right now," he said. "We have some meters, we have some spaces. We have some two-hour, some 10-hour, some 30-minute. We're just trying to get a comprehensive look at it to make some sense of it so folks will know — when they come downtown, they will know what to expect."