During the summer, MSU Parking services installed a brand new pay lot parking system. When this system came online on Aug. 31, the parking lot switched from a gate-controlled pay-on-exit system to a pay-and-display system, where you pre-purchase the hours you need in advance then display a printed ticket in the window of your car. The parking lot in downtown Bozeman uses a pay-on-exit system, very similar to the old pay lot way, albeit automated so no human attendant is needed. The pay-and-display system is similar to street-side metered parking, except that a ticket is needed on the car, preventing the use of leftover time.
In an email sent out twice to MSU students and faculty, Kurt Blunck, Manager of Parking Services, up the new system by claiming “no more lines, either getting in, or getting out.” This has not always been the case, especially considering when one of the two “centrally located” pay kiosks stopped working on Sept. 4, which resulted in a line of 20 people waiting to use the one working kiosk. It also means that users have to keep track of exactly when their ticket expires, and to know exactly how much time they will need for their visit. Also, while it takes considerably shorter to leave the lot, it takes exceptionally longer to get into the lot because one must park, walk to the kiosk, purchase a ticket, then return to their car to display the ticket. This can mean considerable backtracking if someone parks near the back or if they are late. Another type of parking, pay-by-stall, is different in that one inputs the stall number at the kiosk and there is no need to return to the car as the timestamp and stall number can be accessed electronically via parking enforcement.
That being said, the new system includes great features and advantages such as credit card acceptance (cat card usage to come). Improvements also include no longer having to maintain and use the old parking gates which are almost 10 years old. The new system also allows use of coupons, so event hosts can pay for guest parking. They are also much less expensive to maintain and they require no human attendant, however it will require policing of the lot to make sure users are not going over their allotted time.
While the lot itself is on the fast track to be demolished to make way for a new building and parking garage, the use of the new pay system is transitional, and a test to ensure pay system usability. The road to the new parking garage, and to a new system for paid parking, is a rough one, full of many challenges and trials. Fortunately parking services is being proactive in ensuring the success of parking on campus.