Goodbye to the Last Old-School Parking Meter

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This week, Manhattan’s last old-style parking meter — you know, the pole-mounted kind that demanded regular meals of quarters — was decommissioned; while plenty still remain in Baltimore, it’s clear that their days are numbered.

Baltimore’s slowly been replacing its single-space pole meters with EZ Park devices, which take credit cards and are wifi capable. But they can also be tricky for motorcyclists (where to put the slip of paper so its seen by meter police, but not stolen by other would-be parkers?) and deceptive for drivers (they’ll accept payment for times when parking isn’t allowed). But since they eliminate the need for clearly delineated parking spots, they also make more parking spots available.

And while there are some aesthetic reasons to be nostalgic for the old school version (the satisfying clunk of a quarter in the slot! their elegant shape!), it’s worth pointing out that many other cities have made the switch to computerized meters at the same time as they’ve outsourced parking enforcement to private companies — often with disastrous results.
In Chicago, protesters fed meters enough pennies to fill its coin reservoirs, rendering the machines inoperable. (And, because it’s Chicago, there’s also a parking-related corruption investigation going down at the attorney general’s office.) Boston and Portland have each faced their own parking meter scandals. Plus, it’s generally a bad deal for the city — a big chunk of money upfront, but a loss of revenue for the coming years (three-quarters of a century, in Chicago’s case!)

So let’s hope Baltimore doesn’t privatize anytime soon. And if you’ve got a smart phone and a tendency to amass parking tickets, you might by interested in a new app that’ll tell you the odds that you’ll get ticketed in a particular spot at a particular time (based on analysis of publicly available city data). Has anyone else noticed that you rarely get a ticket when it’s raining?



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