Mayor is a hacker and wants to use DIY parking meters

The Mayor of Silverton, Oregon is a hacker and wants to use roll-your-own hardware in the town’s parking meters. It’s not that he thinks he can do a better job than companies selling modern meters (although there have been notable problems with those), but he wants to retain the sentiment of the 1940’s era parking meters that are being replaced. Those meters are known as penny parking meters, because you can get 12 minutes of time for just one penny.

Many municipalities have gone digital with parking payment systems due to costs associated with servicing mechanical meters and collecting coins from each one of them. This hack aims to keep the look of the vintage meters, but replace the mechanical readout with a digital screen. The meter would still offer a reasonable parking deal; five minutes for free. Cost for replacing the internals is estimated at $150 per meter… which seems just a bit high if they are looking at a 250 unit run. The main problem that we see with the idea is that the original parking meter bodies don’t have a slot which can accept quarters.

[Thanks Rick]

Comments

  1. Parcanman says:

    With a little stepper motor, he could even use the original dial. A servo would be easier, but servos need constant power to hold a position, which can be challenging on batteries, but one of those really little steppers could go right off the 5v microcontroller pins as long as it didn’t have a load bigger than the needle.

    I wonder if a gearing down the handle to a little motor could generate enough to keep a battery charged (in addition to the solar panels that should be used anyway).

  2. Elias says:

    Just convert them to use RFID and have a tag dispenser or whatever.

  3. Brian.Holiday says:

    150 a meter seems pretty cheap when you include labor costs. The last network appliance I designed cost 200K for the first five units, only 25K was materials.

  4. salec says:

    If I remember correctly, pushing the coin into slot used to wind up the mechanism of the meter. Could it be reproduced with an electronic device?

  5. i also vote for the servo option, without LCD :)

  6. also, did anyone try making their own coin acceptors? i am not exactly sure how they work but i guess that they measure magnetic properties of a coin as well as the speed it drops in.

  7. Oren Beck says:

    Open Hardware and Software.

    Simply put- Serial # 1,000,000 is inherently a hugely non-linear magnitude cheaper than the prototype or first 1K production units. Call it a riff on Moore’s Law?

    Well, that applies to components too. I hope the Mayor in question reaches out to ALL of the Open Stuff groups! We “could” consider it a literal civic duty. Our taxes and the operating expenses of our world could be affected in Very Good Ways.

    I’ve got some very socially positive ideas about this that I am gifting the world with. Not arrogance, just a Karma offering of sorts:}

    Folks- we can hack our world with this in some socially huge ways. It’s not arrogance to say dedicated Hackers can change the world.

    Envision every parking meter as a mesh node. And an Open Sourced node for the Gunfire detection microphones! Hell- We could cite history if those companies challenge us. Ah well- we dream more than anyone dares to build.

  8. Booker T. Worthington says:

    Is it just me or does that guy have a boob job?

  9. Tom the Brat says:

    Quarters? Goodness, meters around here want 20’s. (Slight exaggeration)

  10. @Oren Beck – +1 for “mesh node. And an Open Sourced node for the Gunfire detection microphones!” Really cool idea!

  11. doronbc says:

    @Booker T. Worthington, I thought I was crazy too!

    He was reported to be the nation’s first openly transgender mayor when he was elected as the mayor of Silverton, Oregon in November 2008

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stu_Rasmussen

  12. Chris G. says:

    Yes. Yes, he does.

  13. octel says:

    @jonathan
    go look up the word “tranny” on wikipedia. it’s akin to using the n-word to casually describe a person of color

    while i’m sure it was not your intent, you are throwing around some horribly offensive language

  14. zay34kc3 says:

    Yes, he’s transgendered:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/11/09/americas-first-transgende_n_142503.html

    Of course, I fail to see the point in bringing it up unless we’re discussing hacking one’s own body.

    Personally, I’d like to see more hacking-inclined politicians. Maybe governments and public organizations wouldn’t get taken for a ride when buying products and services. It’d be great when a company says, “We can provide for $1000/ea,” and the mayor says, “Really, I hacked a prototype together for $300. And since it’s open source hardware and software, it won’t become obsolete if you decide to stop making it.”

  15. macona says:

    Wow, this is taking place not far from here.

    I like the meters in Portland. One meter per block front. Prints out stickers that you put on your window. You can then park anywhere, move your car, whatever, and you are good till the time printed on the sticker.

    Also the machines take cards and with many of us not using cash thats a good thing.

    I understand trying to keep the old bases, but if you are still replacing the guts with a electronic display, who cares at that point.

  16. David s says:

    Honestly it sounds like the only way this would be cheaper is with RFID… That idea was brilliant. 150 bucks a meter sounds really reasonable for a professionally built machine.

  17. Andrew Parting says:

    Erm, is that a transvestite?

  18. Spork says:

    This is a REALLY cool idea.
    You know it costs literally millions to put in parking meters, right? $150/meter is a steal, plus if it’s open source it can be improved (for free) and all of the profit goes right back to the city for renovation/upkeep.

    Most meters here are $1-2/hour and take credit card…. which means the credit card company is taking their portion, the company who developed the meters are taking theirs, and the consumer foots the larger bill to make up the difference. Plus the damn things are broken half the time anyway.

  19. jaqen says:

    +1 to andrew for not reading the other posts before posting himself

  20. Booker T. Worthington says:

    @zay34kc3 Of course there is a point of bringing it up. This guy looks like a character!

    On your point of saving money, we’d have to wait an see. It’s cool that the mayor is taking the initiative to save some money, but it could end up costing more in the long run to DIY it.

    It takes a lot more to create a robust product than just slapping some parts together for a quick prototype. I saw digital retrofits available for $80.

  21. Gilliam says:

    @ Parcanman and @Oren Beck: power them from solar pannels on the roofs of nearby shops.

  22. Drew says:

    But, why?

    What’s wrong with the old mechanical parking meters? They should be easy to service compared to an electronic one.

  23. Renee says:

    Wait, so the more recent comment got deleted but the tranny one stays?

    Yeah it’s a word that’s been used a lot in the past but it’s derogatory and people shouldn’t be using it. It’s like the difference between faggot and gay. Going around and calling people the f-word is going to get you in hot water. Same goes for calling people trannys.

  24. zay34kc3 says:

    @Booker, you can save money without having to DIY it. When you can demonstrate a prototype that’s much cheaper, you put the vendor in a position of having to defend a higher cost.

    It may very well be that the product is worth it. You want something to survive a corrosive environment, you put it in a NEMA 4X enclosure that’s gonna cost money. My little Radioshack enclosure is no comparison.

    But if the vendor can’t justify it, you’ve got leverage.

    This doesn’t mean elected officials need to start pouring over schematics and BOMs to get a good deal. It does mean that when someone says they’ll provide a simple item for some ungodly price, officials have the chops to question it.

  25. jonathan says:

    @octel
    My apologies. No offense was intended. I will watch my use of the word in the future.

    I like Silverton. From what I understand he is a decent mayor and well liked. It is amazing that he is a mayor of a farming town as they tend to be very conservative. I think it’s cool to see that a mayor is a hacker and looking to put some of those skills to use.

    The main point of my original post is that I totally understand the idea of hacking their meters as the parking there is like 15 cents an hour. He can keep the parking rates low by finding cheaper alternatives to upgrading them.

  26. Booker T. Worthington says:

    @zay34kc3 agree 100%. I’ve done lots of work with government contractors and their MO is to charge as much as they can get.

    The one hitch here is that it’s very much an old boys club so that really plays into how the contract is awarded and has less to do about the quality of the product/service and price.

  27. Erik Johnson says:

    @drew, maybe true if you have a skilled jeweler/machinist that can build you new clockwork gears after they corrode, break or otherwise cease to work with the elemental and human abuses thrown at them. But I’m with the others saying keep the dial, use a servo or other quartz mechanism to drive a needle.

  28. Andrew Parting says:

    Are you supposed to call them she? I’m never sure…

  29. @Andrew Parting
    When in doubt, go with the presented gender. If you called him she, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be offended, however, he identifies as he.

    A good rule of thumb I often find is to go by what the torso looks like. If someone has boobs, you’d probably be fair to go with she, most Female-to-Male transfolk bind thus minimizing their chest. If you don’t see large boobs, but they’re wearing a female type shirt, you can go with she as well.

  30. Gah, I didn’t want to do two posts (accidentally submitted)…

    AS FOR THE HACK!

    I really like this, something that’s going on in our city is parking meters which can accept credit cards. I think it would be cool to, as well as very easy, to implement that into these meters. I’m not sure how power is handled, but the meters that I’m speaking of use solar panels. I wish there were more details for the mechanics of this hack (unless I’m just missing them).

  31. lurker says:

    Can’t really contribute anything here, but it gives me a new appreciation for “small” (relatively speaking” towns… I can go anywhere in a 40 mile radius, with localities numbering from 3-30 thousand residents, and park for free.

    …Meters? Meter Maids? It’s called land, parking lots, and people who aren’t straight-up assholes…And in NEW YORK STATE – guess which side?

    …Sorry – Just never quite understood why people would be willing and eager to move to a metropolitan area where they’re nothing more than a number and a source of revenue…

  32. @therian

    Was that really necessary? I thought that HaD had a more respectable community…

  33. Denis.. says:

    What’s remarkable is how we desperately try to use technology and money. After the war, and up until the early seventies, France used a cash and technology-free system called the “Zone bleue” or ‘blue zone”. Drivers used a standard cardboard disk that spun around in a cardboard sleeve with two holes. One hole displayed the arrival time, the other the expiration time. You just left it on your dash and at a glance traffic wardens (“les pervenches”) knew if you’d overstayed your welcome. If you wanted extra time, you had to come back and spin the disc to the new time. No change, no meters. We could maybe learn from the past…

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