Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Parking meters, old and new

Technology is coming to on-street parking. The NY Times reports on the changeover: The Last Days of the Old Parking Meter

"The city’s Transportation Department, which recently accelerated its meter retirement program, says the change will benefit city and citizen alike: the new meters read credit cards, speak seven languages, require less maintenance, and free up room on the sidewalk."

In Brookline, where I live, one can already begin to catalog some of the relative advantages and disadvantages of the old and new technologies, aside from those mentioned above, regarding credit cards in particular.

Waiting time and queues: old meters took your quarters immediately (if they were working well enough to take them at all); new meters take some time even if you are first in line, and since they serve multiple spots, you may have to wait while they take that time for the people ahead of you.

Parking at 7:45am: old meters made you start paying even if you rolled up to the curb before payment was required; new meters know that you don't have to pay until e.g. 8am, and so can sell you parking until 8:30 without charging you for the first 15 minutes until 8.

Adding time to the meter: old meters let you add another quarter to add time, e.g. if you glanced in at the coffee shop after you had already put money in the meter and noticed that there were no vacant tables, so you would have to go across the street, and wouldn't be back by 8:30.  New meters print a receipt for you to put on your dashboard, and don't let you add time to the end of the time interval you have already bought.

Other people must have noticed other advantages and disadvantages...

3 comments:

dWj said...

With the old meters, if you drive away leaving 15 minutes of time you didn't use, you're effectively giving most of that to the next guy who pulls up, while with the new meters you're giving all of it to the city. In the former case, you're likely to get some free time from the same mechanism on some other occasion. In either case (assuming compliance), the city is being paid for all the time it is "due", plus a bit of time when the spot is empty, but with the new meters the city is sometimes being paid by both the person in the spot and the person who previously vacated it.

Highgamma said...

Originally, meters were created to keep people from parking in places where there was demand for short-term parking. That is, if you wanted to park near businesses on Main Street for some shopping, you'd pay your nickel. If you were parking for several hours, you'd park a block or two away where there were no meters. However, two things happened. First, almost all parking in big cities became "valuable" short-term parking during the day. Second, cities began to look at parking meters as revenue-generating tools more than business promotion tools.
I see these new meters as getting us back to "business-promotion" since you can't "hog" the parking space by feeding the meter all day. Long-term parkers will need to adjust. However, for reasons you've stated, these new meters likely maximize revenue since substantial revenue is lost from people moving into a metered spot with time still on the meter. Also, there is less need to go meter by meter and collect the quarters.
I hate to say it, but I think these meters are a "better" answer. (It is not efficient or business-friendly to have long-term parkers in short-term parking spaces.)

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