“The end of the parking meter”

This article  by Tom Vanderbilt appeared in yesterday’s Wired offering a readable review of the history of this remarkable American transportation invention and gift to the world, with good references to Donald Shoup‘s monumental “The High Cost of Free Parking” and Paul Barter’s Reinventing Parking blog. Every regular reader of World Streets is well aware that strategic parking control is one of the key pillars to a city transport system that is doing its job — but whether or not the key to this is going to be the old parking meter, well that we can leave you to judge.

Time Expired: The end of the parking meter

By Tom Vanderbilt

Seventy-five years ago, the world’s first parking meter cast its thin, ominous shadow on the streets of Oklahoma City. The meter was the brainchild of Carlton C. Magee, a local publisher and Chamber of Commerce Traffic Committee chief, and he hoped it would solve the city’s chronic parking problems.

In the pre-meter days, police would drive around with stopwatches and chalk, enforcing the city’s parking time limits by marking the tires of cars seen squatting for too long, but the system was ill-equipped to handle the “endemic overparking” problem. Even worse, a survey found that at any given time, 80 percent of the city’s spots were occupied by employees of downtown businesses—the very same businesses complaining that lack of parking was driving away shoppers.

Calling for an “efficient, impartial, and thoroughly practical aid to parking regulation,” Magee held a student-design contest and launched his instrument.

* Click here for the full article from Wired.

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Here is a good interview of Professor Shoup by Mark Gorton of New York’s The Open Planning Project in which he sets out in six short minutes some of his ideas for reforming parking policy.

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