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Sunday, July 10, 2005

Smart Parking Meters - City Life Worsens

Smart parking meters are bad karma
I was reading a piece from CNet reporter Michelle Meyers on smart parking meters that monitor your parking space and when you leave they reset the counter to zero. So no more free lunches using someone else's leftover time, if these new meters take over, there will be no more leftover time.
It's one of life's little pleasures--a reward for all of the time and energy you've put into finding a parking spot in the first place. You go to put your only silver coin in the meter and--yippee--it's still got 25 minutes left.

Well, savor those moments, because it looks like technology is making them a thing of the past. A story on smart parking meters in the Wall Street Journal last month referred to meters in Pacific Grove, Calif., that know when a car pulls out of the spot and quickly reset to zero.

It's rare that stories on new technology make me sad.

She picked up on the original story from WSJ and notes the uproar on Fark when they commented on the story as well.

Here's What I Think
With parking meters and every other major nuissance in cities, the city managers need to keep the main thing the main thing. That is, they need to ensure a safe city that's enjoyable and fun to be in while taking care of their budgets at the same time. I personally have two outstanding parking tickets from parking in a space and forgetting to put more money in the meter after my time had ran out. Now, I understand getting a ticket, no matter how annoying it is. I think tickets have become a way of life in cities and most of us are accustomed to them by now. However, resetting a meter is taking the whole parking meter thing a bit too far.

First off, we all know we have to pay the meter in order to park and that's fine. But we also look forward to those serendipitous moments when someone has left us 15 or 30 or even 45 minutes on a parking meter and we know that's plenty of time for us to park and do what we need to do. Those moments of pure joy and excitement are made possible by for two reasons.

1. Someone paid more than they needed to and felt a little bit of pain leaving a meter they knew had extra time on it. Their pain was offset by the fact they knew someone else would benefit from that little bit of time so it all made sense in the end.

2. Parking meters are dumb. You put money in them and a egg timer starts. When the egg timer dings the cop comes and writes you a ticket if you don't feed the meter again. i.e. the metering technology is old.

Now I'm no city manager or mayor but I know there's going to be a lot of good karma leaving our great cities if these smart parking meters are installed. Good patrons needing a bit of good luck won't find it in the usual places. Good Samaritans paying extra will become jaded knowing the city is profiting off of every minute a car occupies a metered spot and their small investment in good karma will go unnoticed. I'd had to be the city manager in one of these new smart meter cities, it's not going to be pretty.

Of course you know I'm joking about this whole thing but there's a bit of truth in all jokes. I think these new smart meters stink and hurt more than they help but that's just my opinion. Here in Merritt Island you won't find a parking meter. But in Cocoa Beach they installed them at every numbered beach access street and it definitely hurt a little bit.

By Jason Dowdell at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)

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