To Reset or Not Reset a Meter
The City of Santa Monica and the City of LA are installing sensors in on street spaces that will reset the parking meter to “0” when the vehicle leave the space. They claim that it is to affect parking policy and not to be used to help enforcement. Right.
I was asked to participate on a radio program last week discussing this issue and listened to caller after caller decrying the new sensors and griping about the new policy.
“It’s a like winning the lottery,” said one caller. “you pick up a few minutes and you think “wow” a little something good happened today.” Virtually all felt that this was simply a way for the city to ‘grab’ more money.
They also discussed the morality of the situation. A person pays for an hour and leaves after 40 minutes. Why is it wrong for the next person to park for that extra 20 minutes without having to pay?
Its hard to argue with that last statement, however I’ll give it a try. The purpose of metered parking is to create turnover for local merchants. It is to keep residents and workers in the area from taking spots. Rules against “feeding” the meter prevent this type of activity. If one buys the maximum amount of time, then you are enjoined from putting more money in the meter to keep turnover working.
So the ‘reset’ is needed to ensure that we get the proper ‘turnover.’ Fair enough.
However, how about the PR the city gets when the parker gets a few minutes of ‘free’ parking by piggybacking on someone else. It seems to me that this is a small price to pay if we have the technology to allow piggybacking but also ensure turnover.
Say the maximum time allowed to park in an area is two hours. A person buys two hours but leaves after an hour and a half. The meter will know when the new person arrives and allow them to ‘top up’ the meter only to the two hours from their arrival, not two hours from when the first person’s fee ran out. Rules are followed and everyone, except perhaps the finance director for the city, is happy.
We should remember one other thing, when we change to a pay by credit card meter, most people pay the maximum anyway, whether they plan to stay the maximum time or not. Revenue skyrockets for cities because of this. Other benefits of the new meters is the ‘up’ time and the fact that the meter can notify the city if it is having a problem and can be repaired quickly. The down time in the city of LA is very low, less than a few hours at most.
Are we really so concerned about every penny that we ‘reset’ the meters. I’m told that after a few weeks complaints about resetting die away and ‘all is right with the world.’ But I wonder…people remember a kinder gentler time when folks put a quarter in a meter to keep a stranger’s car from getting a ticket, or when police warned merchants that the meter patrol was coming so meters could be fed or cars moved.
If a city is so financially tapped out that every little bit needs to be wrung out of the citizenry, isn’t something else wrong? When parking becomes a ‘tax’ instead of a way to affect behavior are we moving in the right or wrong direction?
What do you say, Brandy?