Parking Meters- A few questions

A while back, Gazoo posted a similar question, but I don’t believe it was ever answered.

  1. Does a typical municipality make money from metering?

  2. If so, does this profit stem from fines or the actual change put in the meters? It seems that with the expense of collecting, conversion, and maintenance, the change would be a wash.

  3. Is the impetus behind metering to raise cash or to prevent people from parking for extended periods during heavily trafficked times? Or, as I suspect, both?

Thanks all.

(1) Yes, they make money from meters, but it’s a very low item on the revenue balance sheet.

(2) Profits are made both ways. The less a municipality enforces (by giving out tickets) the more people will “take their chances” by not feeding the meters.

(3) One of the proponents of meters are local merchants who want a space for customers. With meters, long-term parkers (like employees) will not park in front of a store

Every once in a while, every city seems to get some good Samaritan that goes around putting money in expired meters, just to save people from getting tickets. They think they’re doing a good deed.

Often, this person gets a citation of their own. When it gets reported in the local media, the city administration will explain that the reason it it illegal to pay other people’s meters is that the meters are not there to make money. They are there to ensure a healthy turnover of parked cars. If the irresponsible drivers get out of their tickets by the action of the Samaritan, they will continue to over-use the parking spaces.

Of course, the tickets make money as well…

I read an intersting article about Clear Spring, MD last year. They were re-doing Main Street, which had parking meters along its length. These are the cheap 5-10 cents per hour meters. This was basically so that people wouldn’t park in front if businesses all day. This is a small municipality, not a place where large numbers of people commute.

They did a study to determine whether they were making enough money to justify keeping the meters. They found that the meters were COSTING them $200.00/month. Why? The cost of having somebody collecting the money, writing tickets, enforcing payment of tickets etc. was more than the money they were bringing in.

The solution? No more parking meters, but 1 hour parking signs.

I am sure that this situation is not typical.

Which, if people aren’t going to totally ignore them, have a cost of writing tickets, enforcing payment of tickets, having somebody keep track of what cars have been there for more than an hour … I don’t doubt that the “one hour parking signs” could be more cost effective. I’m just not sure it’s that big a difference.

Some inventor, who will be roasting in Hell along with the originator of the speed bump, has come up with a new and improved parking meter. Among the features:

[li]LCD flag display more easily seen by enforcement[/li]
[li]Sensors reset the meter when the space is vacated[/li]
[li]Easily recalibrated coin to time interval settings[/li]
[li]Telemetered alert of violation to enforcement[/li]
[li]Radio link to indicate meter malfunction[/li][/ol]

Doesn’t it warm your heart to know that industry is bringing forward this archaic technology into the modern era where your humble parking meter will now hoover out your pocket book with the precision of a mechanized pirahna?

Sensors don’t reset the meter to zero when the space is vacated. That’s just too cost prohibitive. But you don’t need a sensor, just use logic: If a coin is entered into the meter AND no other coin has been entered within the last 5 minutes, reset the counter to zero before adding time to the meter.

biz, I think Zen is right about the sensors.

New-fangled (non-mechanical) meters appeared here in NYC a year or two ago, creating a bit of a splash in the local news media. The city went to great pains to explain the full capability of today’s high-tech meters (including the sensor feature), but made sure that people got the message that none of the “mean” and “unfair” features would be used in NYC’s new meters.

Frankly, I LOVE meters. I’m delighted to pay $1.00 or more to park for an hour in a busy NYC shopping district. It’s the best damn bargain in town. (Makes me laugh when I see those dime meters in small towns and cities.)

I work in the land of the meters, Arlington, VA. Almost every non-residential street has meters. (Residential streets are zoned parking, so you can’t just park in front of someone’s house and walk the 1/2 mile to your office.)

What’s insidious is that most of them are in effect Monday through Saturday. And don’t try to feign ignorance; traffic judges here scoff at those that whine “But I didn’t know you had to pay on Saturday.” It’s marked all over.

They also had a problem with handicapped drivers (HCD). Not legitimate HCDs (elderly, amputees, etc.), but those that had either a temporary condition or got a doctor to sign off on them being handicapped. Besides being able to park at reserved spaces, they could park for free all day long. (Hence the lure of dubious handicapped claims.) So Arlington County proclaimed that everybody had to pay, even at reserved spots. (But at least they were still available.) To proclaim it, though, they put blue wrap-around stickers on all the meter poles with white wheelchaired stick figures and a phrase indicating that HCD’s had to pay. Trouble was it made it look like all the spaces were handicapped parking. After some complaints, they put on new stickers sans stick figure with the phrase “all may park, all must pay”.

There are some meters that are 10 hours, Monday through Friday. They recently put this type up in a cul-de-sac at the end of 10th St. South (100 block). It was a forgotten backwater street, until nearby officegoers found it and parked there all day for free. Fortunately, nearby Ball St. and 6th St. South are still meterless.

I myself go the extra mile (or rather, 1/2 mile): there’re two empty slivers of land between Old Jefferson Davis Hwy. and the on-ramp from US 1 to I-395. Free parking, if you get there early enough.

I’ve got a question: if a meter is broken in such a way that it won’t accept coins, can you park there legally, and if so, for how long?

In most municipalities, only for as long as the specified interval of the meter for that space. Chalking the tires will indicate if you are in violation and you will be ticketed.

Zenster & Stuyguy: I’m having a hard time believing that there are sensors detecting when a car vacates a parking space. How would they work, and how would they insure that they don’t get a false reading? If the word gets out that there is the possibility (even 1%) of a false reading, everyone would protest their tickets in court.

biz I got the following quote, describing the latest state-of-the-art meters from the link beneath it. (And boy, is this guy into parking meters, or what?):

"A few models have proximity sensors which clear the time on a meter when a vehicle vacates its parking space, thus preventing drivers from parking on someone else’s remaining time. At least one manufacturer offers a meter that takes a photograph of vehicles that are still parked after time has expired."

Gee, how do those “automatic” toilets know when to flush?

A simple chopped IR emitter/detector (i.e., bidirectionally biased, strobed IR laser diode) would look for your vehicle mass and automatically reset the timer mechanism when the space was vacated for more than 60 seconds. The 60 seconds would allow you to repark your car once you got out and saw that it was not positioned correctly.

bizerta, under your idea, people who return to plug a meter that hasn’t expired would lose time. As someone who’s had to return after getting more change to plug the meter with, I don’t like thet idea.