Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Smart Parking Meters

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 Fortunately for Santa Cruzans, the good clown went to bat for them, and the city council repealed the ordinance.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.


Gil said...

I bet they configure it to phone the meter maid, instead of the driver.

Kevin B. O'Reilly said...

The original purpose of parking meters was to encourage turnover of spots in commercial areas. That is why metered spots are so cheap but also time limited.


Tim Lee said...

Last year in Princeton, New Jersey I got a parking ticket for "meter feeding" because I went out and put more money in my meter before it ran out. Before that I hadn't been aware there was such an offense.

Heather said...

I just returned from a vacation in Canada where they have these kinds of meters. I was impressed and mentioned it to my boyfriend, how I hoped these would show up in L.A. since it would be delightful it to refill the meter without having to leave the restaurant. But we later came to the same conclusion...parking tickets generate too much revenue. I imagine then that these meters would only appear in areas frequented mostly by tourists. Incidentally, we overpaid for our meter (I think we bought 3 hours and only used 2), and since the meter doesn't show your time, it did not end up in a free hour for the next guy. This tourist is now wiser.