Lewes needs to weigh pros and cons of SmartPhone

March 3, 2014

On Feb. 21 I attended a public meeting in Lewes at City Hall. In attendance were the mayor and council, invited guests and citizens. This meeting was a continuation of 2015 fiscal budget discussions started several weeks ago. Among the agenda items discussed, perhaps the most illuminating was the one centered on the idea of introducing SmartPhone technology for the purpose of paying for parking meters.

Coming on the heels of the recent council vote to increase parking meter rates to $1 an hour in the metered area around Second Street, the issue now under consideration would bring to Lewes the same information technology deployed in other cities and metro areas including Rehoboth, Washington DC, and Montgomery County Maryland.

Whereas I would never willingly engage in a discussion that would suggest that 21st Century technology offers nothing to better manage our public assets, I am keenly aware that there is a price that must be considered when weighing these kinds of decisions. As the council and city manager study this proposal further, a full vetting of such a program must include an examination of possible unintended consequences of its implementation. To this end, development of a clear goal statement would be a good starting point for any study.

Is a goal a need to construct a metering program that would discourage vehicles from being driven and parked in the town’s commercial district by managing more the limited number of parking spaces more closely? Is a goal to encourage more vehicular traffic into the commercial district by restricting the amount of time any car can remain parked in a place? At the least, a clearly defined goal should certainly be expected at the conclusion of any study conducted by the council

Putting aside the novelty of using a SmartPhone for the purpose of charging to a credit card account one’s use of a parking space, (and the attendant surcharges applied for using this payment system,) I would strongly suggest that more time and energy must be expended to better understand the consequences of embracing this technology.

And lastly, a question about what this kind of program may represent. Let’s ask our selves if an internet-based metering program is the latest example of technology creep into an area where keeping it simple may be what is best for our community. I would suggest that just because our good neighbor to the south has embraced this trend is not justification enough to bring it to Lewes.

Tim Ritzert

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