New meters are in use on the south side of Bijou Street. These smart meters will be installed citywide, and will eventually interface with a mobile app.

You can now pay for up to four hours of evening parking at all on-street meters downtown and in Old Colorado City, regardless of time limits posted on the meters.

The city loosened the restrictions on time allowed at meters after 6 p.m., following pushback from businesses and the public. This adjustment overrides the one- and two-hour time limits posted on some meters, effective immediately.

“Our intent was always to offer the ability for longer stays to accommodate those who wish to enjoy dinner or other evening entertainment downtown,” Scott Lee, director of the city’s Parking Enterprise, said in a news release. “This is the solution we are able to implement until new meters with better and more flexible technology are installed.”

In January the city implemented new parking fees at meters and city parking lots, and plans to install smart parking meters this summer.

Starting Jan. 1, fees at the meters rose by 25 cents per hour for a maximum allowable time of two hours in the core downtown area.

The city is replacing 2,000 on-street meters, starting in the downtown area. The new meters and a companion app will let motorists pay for parking and extend their time through their mobile phones.

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Patrons must pay for parking at the meters from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-10 p.m. Sundays, when parking previously was free.

The changes are expected to generate about $1 million a year for the parking enterprise and will be used to address some $10 million in deferred maintenance at the parking structures and surface lots in Old Colorado City and technology upgrades throughout the system.

The parking enterprise is funded entirely through users, Lee said, and does not receive any money through the city’s general fund.

Lee expects the technology upgrades to improve customer service and eventually help the city invest in new parking structures to meet the growing need for parking.

In various parking surveys, lack of turnover in the evenings was identified as one of the biggest problems.

Before the change in hours extending paid parking into the evening hours, people were coming in late in the afternoon, paying $1 to park from 5-6 p.m., and then staying for free for the remainder of the evening. That population of parkers often included downtown employees and hotel guests.

Extending the hours through 10 p.m. was designed to encourage parking in the parking structures rather than on the street, leaving some on-street parking spots near businesses available for their patrons.

The new evening hours at the downtown meters should help downtown businesses that operate at night, but the city is still encouraging patrons, employees and hotel guests to use the city-owned garages, where they can park after 6 p.m. and on weekends for $1.

For more information about the parking enterprise, please visit coloradosprings.gov/parking-system-enterprise.