The trend in both Boston and Cambridge is obvious – rip up the iron maiden-esque parking meters of old and replace them with multi-space, computerized, robo-meters – the network of which we can only assume will expand until they’ve succeeded in erecting some kind of street-side hive mind that will one day sell our parking habits to advertisers on google and decrease our credit rating a point per minute when our cars overstay their paid welcome. To this end, the city of Boston just recently announced the purchase of 63 new multi-space meters to assimilate the Back Bay.
These devices, even at their navy-purchasing-toilet-seats price of $10,000 per unit, have the bean counters at city hall in a frenzy since they’ve discovered that these robo-meters can produce upwards of 35% more income per space than their steel counterparts by accepting credit card payments (minimum $2 in Boston), preventing parkers from ‘time-sharing’ spaces, eliminating space-splitting by motorcycles, and minimizing the work necessary for meter funds collection. For the consumer, the brochures from both Boston and Cambridge advertise an increased ease of use, and credit-card payment convenience. Lucky us.
Seriously though– with all this new technology, doesn’t it seem odd that we are still required to pre-pay for our parking? If another driver can not benefit from my extra meter time anymore, why shouldn’t the meter charge me a to-the-minute rate? What is that extra $1.50 paying for when I drive off after 15 minutes?
Granted, the only way the city could accomplish this would be by requiring a credit-card swipe upon arrival and departure, with a charge happening after the latter, and the former providing a receipt for dashboard placement. There’s a familiarity with the old system to consider and while trying to replicate that experience is important for consumer acceptance, it sure feels like the scales tip towards the city when it comes to the overall benefits of these computerized meter maids.
Maybe we should start leaving our partially used parking receipts stuck to the side of the meters for others to use? Any other bright ideas on this front?
At least the new meters are partially solar powered. Then again, the 9500 traditional parking meters that the city is also buying this month to replace some of the more war-weary units don’t use any electricity at all. Two steps forward…