Whether it is the technological wonder machine managing multiple spaces or the steadfast ‘lollipop’ single head, parking meters are the quintessential urban foliage. Standing resolute, covered in stickers and improperly discarded gum, the parking meter brings order out of the chaos. It is all that stands between commercial desolation and economic success.
I recognize that most people never give the lowly parking meter much attention except when you are struggling to find that quarter under your car seat. But I ask you to consider how impossible urban development would be without this mechanized sentinel of parking turn-over.
That’s right I said it, TURN-OVER! That is why we time limt and meter parking. Oh, I understand the argument abut City budgets and ticket quotas, but they are distant cousins in the primary discussion that should celebrate these efficient civil servants. 15 or 30 minutes, an hour or two, these are the way we should measure financial success in an urban environment. Fifteen minutes is perfect for the donut and coffee stop, maybe a paper or that quart of milk. Thirty seems effective for the quick bite stop, the wife’s prescription or the dry cleaning you forgot to pick up last week. The hour never seems long enough, but we make due even if we run back to throw a few more coins in so we can finish the lunch meeting. The two hour meter, the standard urban time frame for which everything must be completed. Well, not everything, if you look at the significant number of expired meter citations written every year.
Each time has a corresponding commercial purpose, generating employment and economic vitality, which is the heartbeat of every urban environment. We need to understand this very basic rule of urban economics; if you are not busy, you won’t attract customers and if the customers you attract can’t park, they won’t come back. That is why turn-over is so important in urban districts.
If the converse were true, then downtown Boulevard, CA (a tiny village) would be far more successful than Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. So the next time you hear or even find yourself bemoaning the parking meter, remember it stood there, rain, shine or as an unwilling dance partner for an over-served bar patron to insure that you have your time in its space.