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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