‘Fast Wake’ Update Set to Radically Improve Parking Boxes

In a move said to actually improve the lives of Evanston parkers, the City’s Parking and Transportation committee unveiled a new “instant awake” firmware upgrade to the new parking boxes cropping up all across the City. The firmware upgrade, according to vendor testimony, will reduce the time it takes to complete a transaction by a minimum of 0.5 seconds, and perhaps up to 1.25 seconds.

The City’s Parking meter expert, Pearl LeBlanc, called the development “significant.”

“Now, those pining away for the days when they could just hop out of their car and plug some coins in the meter simply have to understand that times change,” she said when pressed about the added time to park imposed on residents by the parking boxes. “It is also good for our residents to move more, and the walk to the parking boxes, never more than 200 yards to 400 yards, is good for the cardiac health of everyone.”

Other options are available if convenience is of paramount import, she added. “There is always the parking app on smartphones,” said Ms. LeBlanc. “And we have negotiated a very fair per transaction rate of just $1.79 (regularly $1.81, I am told). If you don’t want to wait, just pay the convenience fee on top of the parking rate, and, just like that, you have saved the 7 to 10 minutes it takes to input a license plate and payment method into the parking boxes!”

When asked about the lack of aerobic improvement of City residents caused by smart phones, she referred this reporter to the City’s Health Department, a department facing a 74% budget cut in the coming fiscal year.

The “instant wake” technology works by sensing the presence of a human standing near the box, then issuing a shrill whistle-like noise designed to assist the visually impaired and alert a parker of the box’s readiness. Because there are so many fewer parking boxes than parking meters, Ms. LeBlanc did not expect the recurring whistles, triggered by pedestrians simply walking by the boxes, would present a problem.

The parking boxes themselves, of course, are not without controversy. “It’s just another example of everything the City calls progress actually making our life worse,” said longtime Evanston resident Samson Goodfellow. “I have lived in Evanston for 47 years, and each year the City seems to head further south.” He told the Parking Committee the pay boxes “make me long for the horse-and-carriage days.”

Others on the committee and in the crowd found the tradeoffs well worth the slight inconvenience to residents. “The convenience to the City – being able to collect as much money as possible, write as many tickets as possible and automate the process as much as possible – far outweighs the few additional minutes each of us must spent trying to navigate the half-awake and sometimes frustrating pay boxes,” said committee chair Alphonse DeLeon. “We were able to lay off three employees who once collected coins from meters and serviced those old, failing meter heads, and now 82% of our parking revenue comes from credit cards and service fees. Win, win, win!”

Alas, Mr. Goodfellow tried once more to protest, hearkening back to the good old days when residents could win what he called the “parking lottery. “Remember pulling in to a spot and finding an hour already on the meter?” he asked wistfully.

Other protesters noted persistent problems with the boxes and credit cards. In weather, the boxes have been known to freeze. Also, there appears at times to be a delay between the use of the parking app and the transmittal of payment information to the City – sometimes as long as 15 minutes.

“Revenue opportunities!” exclaimed Ms. LeBlanc. “We have a budget crisis, you know. Parking tickets can help solve our problem.”