Poll: Salt Lake City’s Parking Meters Could Become Political Issue

Well, challengers to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker in his re-election effort this year have their issue: Salt Lake City’s new – and sometimes non-functioning – on-street parking meters.

Not a very sexy issue.

But could be effective.

A new UtahPolicy poll conducted by Dan Jones & Associates finds city voters split overall on the new meters — and how they work or don’t work.

But when you break out the respondents by age – wow! – older city voters really don’t like the new meters, while younger voters do.

Of course, older folks tend to vote, both in primary and general elections.

And younger voters don’t.

In any case, the new poll shows that Salt Lake City residents overall are not impressed with the new parking meter system – the blue kiosks on downtown city streets that take credit/debit cards for set amounts of time in a numbered space.

Jones finds that overall 70 percent of city residents have used the new parking systems.

And of those who have, 51 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” like the new meters, 45 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” dislike them, and 5 percent didn’t have an opinion, even though they have used the new meters.

Now, we all know that older folks have problems with technology – especially if that technology doesn’t work very well or is difficult for their older brains to understand and deal with.

And Jones’ poll does not differentiate between drivers who may have had trouble with the old kiosks but have not tried the newly-revised keyboards on the kiosks – which tend to work better.


Still, here are some interesting findings among those who told Jones they have used the blue kiosks at one time or another:

— 80 percent of those over 65 years old dislike the new parking system. These folks are old enough to remember the days when you could actually put a penny or a nickel in an old fashion, manually operated parking meter.

Only 14 percent of senior citizens say they like the new system.

— Of those ages 56-65, 51 percent dislike the new system, 39 percent like it and 9 percent didn’t know.

— Those 45-56 years old, 55 percent dislike it, 37 percent liked.

— The numbers switch as the ages get younger: 18-26 years old, 66 percent like, 33 percent dislike; 26-35 years old, 70 percent like, 24 percent dislike; 36-45 years old, 61 percent like, 35 percent dislike.

Note to Becker challengers Jackie Biskupski and Luke Garrott: Start visiting with the older city residents.

And you know what to talk about.

Becker pushed the city council several years ago to fund the new system at $12 million, saying at the time it would be more cost effective and was stage-of-the-art.

But the new blue kiosks – operated by solar panels – had problems from the outset.

Several summers ago during a bad heat wave the whole systems shut down, not able to handle the high temperatures.

There were problems with maintenance, some kiosks wouldn’t take credit/debit cards or wouldn’t print out paper receipts.

On some kiosks, you couldn’t enter the 4-digit parking space number, leaving you to walk to other kiosks, if you felt like it.

Facing a number of problems (and a re-election in 2015) Becker, the city council, and the manufacturer put in new electronics in the old kiosks.

And now the system seems to work much better. The question is will the parking meter problems be a re-election issue and how will it play?

Mayoral races are officially nonpartisan. But city voters haven’t put in a Republican since the early 1970s.

Becker is a Democrat, as are Biskupski (a former state House member) and Garrott, a city council member.

So far, no Republican has gotten into the race; the filing deadline is in June.

Jones found that 45 percent of Republicans don’t like the new parking system, 43 percent do; 54 percent of Democrats like the system, 40 percent don’t; and 49 percent of political independents like the system, 47 percent don’t.

And newer city residents (two years or less living in the city) like the system, 75-22 percent, compared with long-time residents (10 years or more in the city), who approve of the system, but just barely, 49-47 percent.

So, Becker will likely have some meter damage control to deal with.

And those running against him have an issue.

Maybe an ad picturing a senior citizen kicking a blue kiosk in frustration?