Parking in Martinez, especially in the downtown area, will be the chief topic of discussion when the City Council meets tonight.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the council chambers in City Hall, 525 Henrietta St. It's the first full meeting of the new council that was sworn in two weeks ago.
City Manager Philip Vince is asking the council to discuss four issues related to parking.
One of them is allocating $85,000 of parking district reserve funds to purchase as many as 165 credit card enabled electronic meters.
There are currently 75 electronic meters downtown that were installed in the spring as a test to see if the system was economically feasible. That would make 240 of the city's 930 meters the new electronic version.
Vince said the older meters can get jammed or fog up so people can't read the time or instructions. The new meters allow people to use coins or credit/debit cards to pay.
It also allows the city to gather information on when certain meters are busy and if someone, say a downtown employee, is using a space all day long that is meant for customers. Police can also check on meters that have just expired.
"The new meters do provide choices, but with that choice comes a cost," said Vince.
That brings up the second issue at tonight's meeting -- whether to increase the city's meter rates. Right now, Martinez charges 50 cents an hour while other cities such as Walnut Creek charge a dollar an hour.
Added into that is whether people serving on jury duty should continue to be given free parking. That does cost the city revenue and there are day-long spaces jurors can use along Marina Vista.
Finally, the council will discuss whether to institute free parking at meters from Dec. 20 to Jan. 1 to encourage holiday shopping.
Vince said there are arguments on both sides of that issue. Some people feel free parking encourages customers while others say it simply allows people to park all day in one space and limits the parking for people who are running in and out of stores.
What do you think? What changes, if any, should the city make in its parking meters? Tell us what you think and why in our comments section.