Meter Drag

Hunter Oatman-Stanford investigates the slow evolution of the change-fed parking meter:

Today, parking covers more of urban America than any other single-use space, yet the vast majority of meters are outdated, coin-only devices, charging a flat-rate during operating hours across all zones. “From the user’s point of view, most American parking meters remain identical to the original 1935 model,” writes [Donald Shoup]. “You put coins in the meter to buy a specific amount of time, and you risk getting a ticket if you don’t return before your time expires. The main change in 70 years is that few meters now take nickels. In real terms, however, the price of most curb parking hasn’t increased; adjusted for inflation, 5 cents in 1935 was worth 65 cents in 2004, less than the price of parking for an hour at many meters in 2004.”

He praises the model in San Francisco, where rates can be adjusted depending on vehicle occupancy and turnover:

Since the project’s debut, meter rates have been adjusted every six weeks to reach an optimal hourly charge that will keep between most meters occupied with a few always open for new vehicles. Recently, the San Francisco Examiner found the project to be an overall success, with parking rates and fines actually decreasing across the city even as spaces become more available.