CONTACTTRAFFICABOUT TOM VANDERBILTOTHER WRITING CONTACT ABOUT THE BOOK

The End of the Parking Meter?

The parking meter turns 75 years old this year, and I welcome the occasion in my latest Slate column. For such a seemingly mundane object, there’s a lot to say about it; and, alas, for space reasons, I could not go into things like the idea of using meters for charitable donations (see here for a recent example).

I was also unable to use an interesting quote from none other than Robert Moses, writing in the New York Times in 1951 (when, almost unbelievably, meters had yet to reach the shores of Manhattan), about the political fortitude required to end (don’t tell Lew Fidler) what had been seen as an inalienable right — e.g., “free” parking:

“Sobs and howls will rise from the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker with customers to serve, the doctor who can always plead emergency, the store owner who caters to teh carriage trade, the man who came to dinner, the private garage operator who will welcome meters but not competition of offstreet public parking facilities, and the public official whose time is absolutely invaluable (including of course the present writer), not to speak of the lame, the halt and the aged, and loudest of all will be the cries of crusty curmudgeons against infamous regimentation, unbridled bureaucracy and invasion of the king’s highway.

Those who must ride this storm until the benefits are apparent must have the zeal of a Savonarola, the incorruptibility of Caesar’s wife and the hide and temper of a black rhinoceros. Even those attributes will not avail unless they have luck. The seal of the City Parking Authority, if it survives, should feature a rabbit’s foot rampant.”

Echoes here of the congestion pricing debate?

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 at 7:29 am and is filed under Parking, Traffic Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “The End of the Parking Meter?”

  1. doug Says:

    Interesting quote — useful in Seattle’s current shriek war regarding our Mayor’s recent proposal to raise street parking fees. The fees would go from $2.50 to $4.00 downtown and $3.50 in other parts of town. The response has been deafening and irritating. You would think that his modest proposal would cause Seattle to become a vacant ghosttown with all the business hurtling to the suburban malls to the north, south, and east. Never mind that most of the people claiming that also mention that they personally never go shopping downtown because $2.50 an hour is already too much for them!

  2. Hendrik Says:

    In Amsterdam where downtown rates at the parking meters can be as high as 5 euro an hour all this howling over stores going out of business etc etc, is the regular thing whenever they propose another price hike.

    Oddly enough the whole idea behind it is to lessen the influx of cars in the city area, which apparantly has worked so well that the city is now strapped for money because less parking revenue… Then all of a sudden you realize how much the “green” argument is really about the other green (if Holland would have dollars ;-)

    Needless to say, stores are still in business as always and still plenty of cars trying to park as close as possible instead of using one of the 8 park and ride areas just outside of the city which offers you free public transportation downtown and a whole day of parking for 6 euros!!

    On another note, I always pay for parking by using a mobile phone whenever possible… Saves hassle and money.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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