What is a parking meter ?

A parking meter is a device used by traffic enforcers in collecting parking fees. When a vehicle parks in an area with a parking meter, the driver must pay by dropping in coins depending on the amount specified. However, since most parking meters are capped, or should only be used within a pre-determined amount of time, the fee is usually the same amount every time. If the driver fails to pay or the time has expired, he or she may be given a parking ticket.

Parking meters are used worldwide, but are widespread in impacted areas. The idea of using such a device dates back to early 1930s when Carl Magee noticed that many people parked their cars in downtown Oklahoma all day, discouraging other people to do business there. While Magee first thought of putting signs to warn people about parking durations, he decided that meters would work more effectively, allowing more revenues for the city. By 1935, the first parking meters were installed. Soon, many states followed Oklahoma’s idea.

Throughout the existence of parking meters, the design used hasn’t changed much. The original design required the drivers to insert money and turn the lever to activate the timer. Whenever the timer was up, a red flag would indicate that the drivers should insert more money or move. Starting 1980s, parking meters have become digital, displaying the timer digitally, making it easier to read. A huge improvement with digital parking meters is that they can now be reprogrammed without adjusting the meters throughout the entire city manually.

Until today, the principle behind parking meters remains the same as Magee’s idea; to help reduce congestion in cities or downtown areas. However, some parking meters use a pay & display set-up, while others can already accept credit cards. Most cities use the funds gathered from parking meters to fund various projects related to public transit, traffic management and other public works.

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One Response to “What is a parking meter ?”

  1. MIchael Grossman said:

    So what happens when the design of NEW parking meter systems fail to let people know that they are even there? You would think that parking meter design is ubiquitous, but new computerized design that try to cut down on cost have major design flaws. I fell victim to one recently:



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