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The Parking Meter Turns 75 Today 126

nj_peeps writes "75 years ago Carl Magee filed a patent application for what would become one of the most hated inventions in history: the parking meter. From the article: 'Magee's brainwave was to install a device that had a coin acceptor and a dial to engage a timing mechanism. A visible pointer and flag indicated the expiration of the paid period, meaning you either had to move, put in more money, or face the wrath of the local constabulary. The design continued largely unchanged for more than 40 years.'"


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The Parking Meter Turns 75 Today

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  • So.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Jorl17 ( 1716772 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @01:50PM (#32196304)
    The Parking Meter: Haunting humankind for 75 years.
    • by zeon ( 123577 )

      75 is fairly old... maybe it will die soon.

    • In the news today: I'd rather be a toll Collector than a meter . They get Millions of dollars in unused sick time and benefits. Not a bad Job for somebody who only needs an IQ = their shoe size Huh? Not that these people necessarily have that IQ but they may, How much brains does it take to collect tolls ?
  • ...F you buddy! I got a baseball bat with your name written all over it. Looks like you have 75 good swings headed your way, PUNK!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 13, 2010 @01:54PM (#32196390)

    You really think it would make it easier to park in large cities for short errands if they didn't exist? Thank God someone actually thought enough to address the problem.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by bunratty ( 545641 )
      Where do you think you are? This is Slashdot, where no one cares about the unintended consequences of their actions or policy changes. We just want to get software for free, get music for free, park for free, to use other people's brilliant ideas for free. What could possibly go wrong with that plan?
      • As did most of my neighbors, I got quite a thrill when the local miscreants escalated the war on the meters from coin slot jamming up to decapitations. Someone figured out a way to blow out the front of the coin slot with some explosive device, and I guess that was it. (I got over forty bucks in change off the sidewalks after a particularly spectacular night of destruction.) Now the People's Republic of Bezerkley has those computerised sensors with the central pay-stations, and all the spaces collect money,

    • by drc003 ( 738548 )
      So parking meters are only in large area's where they are actually needed? Yeah, OK. I personally do not hate parking meters that are in the type of places you describe. The problem is that in most cities I have been in they are everywhere. Most of them in places that would have no issues without them at all. The parking meter may have come to be for a solid reason but once they realized the money they could make they were expanded everywhere for one reason: To "nickel and dime" citizens for every cent($15
    • by Mashiki ( 184564 ) < minus caffeine> on Thursday May 13, 2010 @03:14PM (#32198006) Homepage

      Where I live(that mystical place called Canada), they figured out that it cost businesses more money if there were meters then 2hr free parking, along with 15min errand spots. When we switched from meters to non, business downtown went up by 40%, and so did the available tax revenue.

      • Can you provide any citation? I'd love to have it on hand in case this subject ever comes up in future.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Smauler ( 915644 )

        I live in a small town in the UK, and I sincerely believe that parking costs are the biggest factor in driving people from the town businesses to out of town supermarkets. I really believe upping business rates a little, and making parking free except for a few key places would spur growth in the town no end. For those who don't know English towns, space is _always_ at a premium, and generally there is little to no roadside parking - what parking there is is generally a council owned extortionate multi-st

        • I'm an American, but I lived in England for several years. Maybe it's my American bias, but we would always pick stores that had free parking over trying to find a garage or meter to park at. Lots of British stores are starting to figure it out (ASDA and Sainsbury's, in our case).

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Where I live(that mystical place called Canada), they figured out that it cost businesses more money if there were meters then 2hr free parking, along with 15min errand spots. When we switched from meters to non, business downtown went up by 40%, and so did the available tax revenue.

        Vancouver City Council is actually deciding to extend the parking meter hours to include Sunday as well. Turns out that the meters get moderated traffic, but on Sunday, it becomes a royal PITA to find a parking spot, short of pa

      • Yeah, I'm not buying it either without a citation.

          I have one, though--In his book 'Traffic', Tom Vanderbilt explains why having meters actually IMPROVES business. Without meters, people park their cars in front of your store and leave it there all day, preventing new customers from coming to your store.


  • They won't accept pennies. 99% accept only coins. San Francisco is talking about 7 day a week
    parking meter enforcement, Many at $3 per hour (or more?). And in San Francisco the
    collection/enforcement departments spend more money than the meters take in! Net loss.

    • And in San Francisco the collection/enforcement departments spend more money than the meters take in! Net loss.

      Is that per ticket, or the department as a whole? (i.e. if the number of tickets went up, would the department start to turn a profit?) Because any use of financial penalties should ALWAYS cost more than it brings in per use.

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Simple solution switch to credit card based machines with camera enforcement. This lets you reduce workforce and raise/lower rates based on time of day.

      • by TheLink ( 130905 )
        Some places allow you to pay for parking by sending an SMS.

        Sure not everyone always has a mobile phone handy. But not everyone always has enough coins either :).
    • by ari_j ( 90255 )
      I would argue that parking meter enforcement's merits are unrelated to profit or loss of the operation. If the purpose of parking meters is to increase parking space turnaround so that more people are able to park in a certain area, such as a congested downtown commercial district, then that purpose is met as long as drivers are sufficiently incentivized to give up parking spaces after a reasonable amount of time (either by the cost of paying the meter for more time or by the expected cost of parking ticke
    • Are you in the Dark Ages or something? Around here you can use a credit card if you want.
  • Cool Hand Luke . . . (Score:5, Informative)

    by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @01:58PM (#32196480)

    Captain: "Maliciously destroying municipal property while under the influence. What was that?"

    Luke: "Cutting the heads off of parking meters, Captain."

    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      What we have here, is the successful ability to communicate!

      I had the same thought.

  • Not a fan, but.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Itninja ( 937614 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:00PM (#32196514) Homepage
    In a bigger city near my home there are no parking meters. Instead, each parking spot int he business district is a '30 minutes only' (or sometimes only 15 minutes) between 7AM and 6PM. At least with meters you can pay more money and get to stay longer. In these spots all you can do is leave before Officer Cool (seriously that's his name) writes you a ticket.
    • by ShadyG ( 197269 )
      When I lived in San Francisco, they were pretty strict about "no feeding the meters". That is to say, they design the meters to go only up to, say 30 minutes, and that's it. If it runs out you get a ticket, but if they catch you putting more money in, you get one too. Best of both worlds!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Meter feeding is supposed to be against the rules just about everywhere there's parking meters, but enforcement can very considerably. The really strict places don't count on catching you feeding more coins in--they'll chalk mark your tires to track how long you've been there, and ticket you if you're over the max time even if you have time on the meter.

        • I remember looking for the chalk make when I was kid, and my dad would give me a quarter to put in the meter when we on the boardwalk.. ahhh the good old days when a quarter would give you at least 30 to 40 min.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I treat chalk marks on my tires like any other form of graffiti. If you don't remove it immediately, the taggers assume you don't care, and then there's no end to it.

      • Not every place with a parking meter has a maximum parking time...

  • by AdmiralXyz ( 1378985 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:05PM (#32196626)
    Is parking for free an inalienable right now? Did I miss a recent update to the US/EU constitutions?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mcsqueak ( 1043736 )

      Parking shouldn't be free, we already subsidize driving enough as it is without allowing people the unlimited ability to park their private property on public land, as long as they would like. Make them pay for the privilege, it's part of the "privilege" (not right) of driving.

      I also enjoy the turnover parking meters create, ensuring that most of the time when I need to run an errand downtown and have to drive, I can find a spot with minimal trouble.

      • I assume you have already reviewed the studies that show parking meters improve the availability of parking.

        By the way, the curb is technically not public land. It's on an easement. In the USA, deeds usually extend into the roadway. I doubt this differs any even if you are in a big city. Evidence? You have to clear snow from your sidewalk in many cities. Either I'm right (I know MY deed extends into the road), or everyone is a bunch of morons who enjoy involuntary servitude to the government.

        • I should have specified I meant in business and commercial districts. Obviously you have some right to park in front of a house you rent/own. Subsidize parking for drivers in the middle of a downtown core? Forget it.
    • Parking meters for the information super-highway?
    • Is parking for free an inalienable right now?

      It should have been since the beginning. I guess the founding fathers forgot a couple.

  • End of an era... (Score:5, Informative)

    by sponga ( 739683 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:08PM (#32196680)

    Parking Meter is dying...
    Cheaper operations and ones that produce more written tickets for violators are more productive.
    Being replaced by 'buy a ticket for half-day or full day' or more modern digital ones that detect when a car moves from the spot so the next person doesn't get free time.

    Let us not forget the 'Parking Meter Fairy' []
    Although only to find out it is illegal to put coins in other peoples time slots, those things are nothing but a source for parking tickets and as we call the Ticket writers around here 'Vultures'.

    Oklahoma City site of first parking meter []

    How to Hack a Parking Meter []

    How to hack electronic parking gates []

    How to Rip-off a Parking meter []

    Hi Tech Parking Meter, Los Angeles []

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      I would hardly say parking meters are the most hated inventions in history. I might think that handicapped spots are more hated. They let arguably healthy people get the best spots, while those that do not have paid doctors to give then a free pass have to pay to park further away.

      I mean the only way to get a ticket at the parking meter is to not pay for the meter. Those of who live in the city know how valuable meters are. They encourage the flow of traffic so that everyone gets an opportunity to park

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Smauler ( 915644 )

        We've got reserved spaces for parents with children at all our supermarkets in the UK now - Personally, I think that if your kid can't walk the extra 50 yards to get into the sugar laden crammed supermarkets you've got bigger fucking problems than not being able to park right next to the door.

        No, I'm not bitter...

    • In our city, we've got a bit of both, the meters are slowly being phased out.

      But the new ones are basically an electronic booth that covers about half a block, or an entire parking lot. You go up, you pay the alotted amount, and enter your license plate. You don't have to leave anything on your dash, you don't have a timer to look at, there are no sensors for your spot.

      Every once in a while a meter maid drives by, checks the database for that booth. If you aren't in the Database, DING.

    • by Rewind ( 138843 )
      Granted I live in a smaller city (little over 180,000 in the metro/city area, much less in the core 'downtown') but we recently got rid of our parking meters. Now they just have signs that say 45 minute parking between 6 and 6. A bicycle cop rides around and if he sees the same car long enough he tickets it. Seems to me much more effective than the parking meters. At the very least I can actually park in front of my apartment now to do quick things like unload groceries rather than park forever away and
    • Alternative method for ripping off parking meters.
      [trailer park boys clip: not for young or sensitive viewers] []

  • Security easily defeated with a McDonald's straw. Or a reasonable facsimile of the official "out of order" bag they used to place over the broken ones.

  • The spandex inventor gets recognition.
    The guy who invented the parking meter not so much.

  • by antdude ( 79039 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:15PM (#32196842) Homepage Journal [] since [] is just an index and will change soon.

  • Why hate the meters? They are there to make parking easier and more reliable for everyone. It's the enforcement that pisses me off to no end. Writing a ticket for a meter one minute expired, or for not having a front license on your car (like it somehow creates a hazard?). And the pricing... Why should meters be $2/hr? Ever? Who carries that much loose change?

    • There's been a trend towards parking meters [] and parking stations [] that take credit cards.
    • by Comboman ( 895500 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:43PM (#32197414)

      Why hate the meters?

      I agree. Now the guy who invented the pay toilet, that's another story.

    • Parking meter enforcement is proof that government can be incredibly efficient and productive when it decides to. Here in New Orleans, we just finished 8 years under one of the most useless mayors imaginable, the police department is in shambles, oh and 75% of the city was underwater a few years back, but it'll only take a few minutes for them to ticket your car.

      • Perhaps they have a merce- private contractors doing it. When I lived in Los Angeles, Lockheed had gotten the parking ticket franchise and they seemed awesomely efficient. If someone got two free minutes, it was news around the neighborhood, and just forget about not paying for your oversight on street-sweeping day. (the metermaids did have to hold off until the sweeper actually passed your car, but I'd see them waiting every time, lined up behind the sweeper, and pre-entering data so they could jump right

  • by aicrules ( 819392 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:27PM (#32197064)
    I really didn't care about them too much till they installed them in front of my house. Granted I lived downtown at the time, but it was a house, not an apartment. Thankfully there was a street within walking distance that had no meters at least till I moved away. There was this old guy in the neighborhood that would always walk the roads nearby with a bag of change after they installed them and refill people's meters. He used to just walk around and talk to the people who would be sitting on their front porch, but apparently he had enough disposable income to keep about 50 parking meters fresh all day.

    And as nice and selfless as that was, that hurt the city income enough that they made a local ordinance against filling other people's meters. They even tried to ticket him more than once. Then they started chalk marking tires to see if they went past a certain time and ticketed them anyway. Just another reason I grew up to be the anti-tax, anti-government program person I am today.
    • It amazes me that we find that we have to pay for parking on a public street. Because someone turned off the engine and got out makes you liable to rent the curb time. What if my car moved asymptotically slowly?

    • by eh2o ( 471262 )

      Parking fines are are a non-democratic means that the city uses to fund certain operations that, for whatever reason be it lack of popularity or laziness, are not otherwise provisioned by legitimate sources of revenue that are approved by the public opinion. Its a clear conflict of interest and the injustice of fining is so obvious that its one of the leading frustrations that people cite in discussions of government annoyances. But I think we should differentiate between objections to what is essentially

  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:42PM (#32197394) Journal

    Downtown Portland Oregon got rid of their curbside parking meters. Used to be, you got out of your car and put in a quarter or a dime (or a nickel if you're an old fogey), twisted the little thingy and went on your way.

    Now you get out of your car, lock the doors (this is Portland...), walk a half block to the ticket vendor machine, and go through the five discrete steps necessary to print a ticket. Assuming you're successful, you walk back to your car, unlock the door (this is Portland...) affix the ticket to your window with the sticky back, lock the door, and go on your way.

    During rush hour, you may wait in line for a significant amount of time to get your ticket. Especially if the moron in front of you can not read directions, but I digress. Parenthetically, what happens if the meter maid happens by while you're in line for your ticket? I haven't had this experience yet.

    When you get back to your car, peel off the ticket and throw it on the ground. Just kidding, you're supposed to hunt for a trash can, or throw it on the floor of your car along with the empty coffee cups and breakfast burrito wrappers, but looking at the gutters downtown it appears that a lot of people just drop them on the ground.

    So we've replaced the purely mechanical, non-waste-producing (but generally hated) parking meter with an electronic, waste-producing, geographically distant, ticket vending machine that's even more hated.

    Time marches on.

    • I like the recent Portland meters. I've only once or twice had to wait behind someone who had trouble operating the meter, and I love that they take debit cards, since I usually don't keep a bunch of change on me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pclminion ( 145572 )

      What's with the "this is Portland" thing? Portland has car prowlers like any city, but nothing particularly out of the ordinary. And anyway, why lock your door? Do you WANT a broken window? What are you keeping in there, suitcases of $100's?

      • Car makers out there should make bullet and bat proof glasses the standard.
        • How expensive would it be?

          A few months ago my wife learned the lesson the hard way. She left her cheapie cell phone on the seat of her car, parked in front of her parents house in boring suburbia. Somebody smashed the window to take the worthless phone. The best part? Door was unlocked.

          Lock the door, get a smashed window. Don't lock the door, get a smashed window. The solution is to leave the window rolled down and remove everything of value from the car.

          • Suuure, lets roll over for thieves. I don't know invent some form of tempered glass that's thin as the ones used today but unbreakable with stones, bats etc. OH WAIT! There is such glass already! It's not bullet proof but hey, it's cheaper and atleast it's something.
            • That's ridiculous. If a thief wants to get in my car, he will. What would be "rolling over" is paying $150 from my own pocket every time a window gets smashed. No fucking way dude.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Maybe the idea is that you're not supposed to own a car, and that the private automobile is a wasteful, selfish mode of transportation? Ever think of that? Maybe the idea is to make every facet of car ownership irritating and oppressive, so that you'll have your car recycled and ride a bicycle instead? Ever think about how good it would feel to stop contributing to climate change and instead use a sustainable method of transportation?
    • We've had the same system in Sweden for decades, except we don't affix the tickets to the windows, they're just paper tickets that lay on the dashboard. I've never seen a curb-side parking meter here, seems like a waste of money to me to build one for each spot... But then I don't have a car, subways and buses work fine.

    • We have a better variation on this system in much of Western Canada (and likely the rest of the country). First of all, there are no more paper tickets to put on the dash. When you pay, you enter your license plate number and the zone you parked in, and that plate is then entered into the system with the appropriate amount of time. Secondly, you don't _have_ to use the kiosk--you can phone in your payment, as you're walking away from your car. On average, there are two kiosks per block on each side of the s

  • by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:47PM (#32197482)
    Get out your pipe cutter and celebrate.
  • by Petersko ( 564140 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @02:54PM (#32197628)
    I live and work in a busy downtown area. If there were no meters all spots would be taken by 8:00 a.m. and anybody coming downtown during the day to do business would be out of luck.

    Parking meters don't just take in money, they help moderate the usage of the space.
    • I truly hate parking meters only when I see them in front of a whole streets worth of empty storefronts. Parking costs almost can't be high enough in big, bustling cities because automobiles tend to destroy the urban environment. Take transit. Or, park it in a garage and walk. Or just walk. Driving isn't a right. Owning a car isn't a right. And parking it where ever you damn well please isn't a right.

      Parking is only a problem for those too lazy to walk.

      • Or who can't walk very well. Or who don't have time to walk.

        Parking costs almost can't be high enough in big, bustling cities because automobiles tend to destroy the urban environment.

        Concrete, asphalt and steel isn't my idea of an "environment".

      • So what you're saying is I'm too lazy to walk 45 miles to class or walk the 5 miles to the bus station to get to class 2 hours early and leave 2 hours late after an 8 hour day?

        Cars are only a problem for those too stuck up to realize their fucking HUGE utility.

    • I work in a busy downtown area with parking meters but they are hardly used because anyone with a handicap tag can park all day without paying so all the metered spots are always taken. Might as well remove the meters and just designate it as handicap parking.

    • Maybe OT but, what about STREET CLEANING? That shit is a scam.
    • I'm perfectly OK with the principle of sharing that such meters are there to "help along".

      What gets me is the abuse. London has plenty of it:

      - when a meter is not working you're NOT allowed to park in some places. Yes, that's right, unless they can make money off it that space is going to stay empty!
      - parking wardens do not have a formalised process for checking their watches, yet some of them use that to determine expiry. There is plenty of evidence that some don'^t even bother to wait for expiry
      - I am

  • 74 years ago today a psychotic Norwegian Brown Rat coupled with an unknown venomous reptile released by a frightened owner into the New York City sewer system. Several months later the first Parking Cop slithered up out of a storm drain, and life has never been the same since for car drivers in various cities around the world.

    The horrible new creature was able to subsist on little more than dung and rotting garbage, produced a new litter with every single case of copulation, and gets horny when abused.

  • 75 years? Must be time for them to retire!
  • sneers at your money grubbing parking meter.

    In other news man eats 52 eggs.

  • by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Thursday May 13, 2010 @10:06PM (#32203072)
    ...nothing better to lock your bike to.
  • And, thanks to the technological advancements represented by the parking meter, just 25 short years later, to the day, we had the laser [].

I came, I saw, I deleted all your files.