Via Lynne Kiesling, I found this article about smart parking meters. The smart meters allow drivers to pay with debit or credit cards instead of change, and then they call drivers to warn them when their time is about to run out. And then you can feed the meter by phone as well! Like Lynne, I’m excited about this development. But my inner – wait, no, outer – cynic says not to expect municipalities to install them any time soon. Why not? Because I suspect that parking fines are not primarily meant to deter parking violations, but to raise revenue. Helping drivers feed their meters in time will reduce revenue from parking tickets, which is great for drivers but bad for city managers.
Evidence for my cynicism? Well, how else to explain the decision to fine a friendly clown for filling other people’s meters in Santa Cruz? If the city were merely interested in the meter revenue, it wouldn’t matter who paid. I figure the ordinance requiring drivers to feed their own meters was passed precisely because it would raise ticket revenue. Fortunately for Santa Cruzans, the good clown went to bat for them, and the city council repealed the ordinance. But I’ll bet lots of other cities have similar ordinances still in place.