To the end of free parking–happy birthday parking meter!

Park it

The infamous and falsely maligned parking meter had its 77th birthday yesterday. Despite the misunderstandings, the parking meter in some form or another is here to stay as a way to manage a perceived scarcity. There needs to be someway to keep those vehicles moving.

Note, it is a perceived scarcity. In a previous post titled, Got Parking? Hell Yeah, we highlighted a study that found that there are at least 500 million empty parking spaces at any given time in the United States. The majority of which are perceived free, which has consequence.

Ninety-nine percent of automobile trips end in free parking and this has a major effect on people’s choice of what means of transportation to take.

~ Mikhail Chester  No Free Parking, Physics Central

In “The High Cost of Free Parking,” economist Donald Shoup builds an argument from the title off of the premise of applying a market rate to parking spaces to help achieve community goals (reduce congestion, raise revenue, create thriving business districts…).  Communities that have followed his findings have done so because they realize that storing automobiles for 22-hours a day is never free.  As he says, “just because the driver doesn’t pay for the parking, doesn’t mean the cost goes away.”

So, we are a day late, but let’s celebrate the parking meter! Happy Birthday, nickel meter.