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New Parking Meters, First Hour Free Ramps, Start Monday

IOWA CITY, IA (CBS2/FOX28) -- Big changes are coming to parking in Iowa City on Monday that officials hope will bring more people downtown, while easing street congestion.

First, the city has installed 1,150 smart parking meters, replacing the 12-year-old models that were previously used. With the smart meters, drivers will now be able to pay with a credit card or coins for street parking. This is the most popular model chosen by the public in April, out of a series of five other meters.

The smart meters can also collect data that may be used in the future to better manage the flow of traffic downtown, while giving drivers a better idea of where open spots exist.

Second, the drivers will be able to park for free for the first hour in four different downtown ramps. The Capitol Street ramp, Dubuque Street ramp, Tower Place ramp on Iowa Avenue will all feature the first hour free program starting Monday. The Court Street ramp will begin the program in mid-July.

Third, prices in the ramps will change. After the first hour, the price will increase from 75 cents to $1 per hour. With the first hour free, that actually decreases the cost for a three-hour trip from $2.25 to $2.

Some drivers say it will help bring more people downtown.

"If it's not a hassle to find a parking spot, and it's free, you know, you're going to get people who want to just come check out a few businesses, or they just want to come visit for a short time, where it's easy to get in and get out," said Kathleen Cady.

Still, others say they'll continue to prefer the convenience of street parking unless they're making a short trip.

"If it's just for an hour, of course we would do that. Why would you pay for the meter? But otherwise, no," said Cassandra Switzer.

Along with the changes, the Iowa City Public Library will no longer validate parking ramp tickets, because of the first hour free program.

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