Things That Refuse to Die: The Parking Meter


Along with the pay phone and a cup of coffee, the parking meter was once one of the main reasons people carried around coins.

The pay phone is gone, and a regular coffee now costs two bucks a cup, but meters are still standing on their stanchions, awaiting your quarters, in cities and towns across America.

New technologies are nibbling at the meter base: Many municipalities have installed machines (usually one per block) that let parkers buy a slip of paper to display on

their windshield. Systems such as MobileNOW and Pango, which allow parkers to pay for parking by cell phone, are being enabled all over the country.

Some experts see a future where the GPS in your car will link up with a municipal parking network, let you know where a spot is available nearby, and allow you to pay for it, all at once.

But don’t wave good-bye to Rita the meter maid yet; parking meters still have decades left on many streets and lots. For one thing, meter makers have introduced innovations

of their own, such as new tops that accept credit cards, are powered by the sun and can relay through wireless connections to parking authorities how often spots are being used.

Plus, there’s a familiarity factor, says Casey Jones, a former chairman of the International Parking Institute. A city that has used meters in one place is likely to stick with that technology even when adding new metered spaces.