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Metered Parking Space Ends Unclear To Some Drivers

April 26, 2013 Featured, Parking 12 Comments

It’s been 30+ years since I took driver’s ed in high school so I don’t recall what we learned about parallel parking. My guess is it focused on the mechanics of backing into a space between two cars. I do remember having to parallel park for my driver’s exam, we had to go to Will Rogers World Airport because no where else in south Oklahoma City had parallel parking.

This driver managed to center their car on the meter, halfway in two parking spaces.
This driver managed to center their car on the meter, halfway in two parking spaces.

It seems to me it isn’t common knowledge that spaces exist from meter to meter. When I took the above picture there were no other cars in front of or behind. I’ve seen people drive up and park this way simply because they don’t know any better. Not sure what they do in places like the 12xx-17xx blocks of Washington Ave where two meters are grouped to reduce the number of poles.

The Missouri license exam also focuses on the mechanics, but not identification of what is a space:

2. Park parallel to the curb, in a space 25 feet long and 7 feet wide. You will be tested for:

  • The position of your vehicle before backing.
  • Whether or not you bump into the space markers.
  • Moving into the space smoothly and at the right speed. • Parking no more than 18” from the curb.
  • Parking near the center of the space.
  • Ability to park the vehicle within two minutes.
  • Turning the wheels in the correct direction for parking.
  • Checking traffic and signaling before you leave the parking space.

Testing to make sure you get in the center of the space, the driver above may think they nailed it.

The obvious fix is to do what Clayton does, paint lines on the pavement to indicate the space start and end. But that would require lots of labor since the city has thousands of metered spaces. My preference is to remove the individual meters and go to a pay and display system:

Pay and display systems differ from road-side parking meters in that one machine can service multiple vehicle spaces, resulting in lower set up costs. In addition, this system theoretically prevents drivers from taking advantage of parking meters that have time remaining; this factor alone has doubled parking revenues in cities that have switched to pay and display.(A driver may occasionally take advantage of remaining time should a departing parker give away a ticket with remaining time, however.)

Message reads “This machine will calculate the correct parking period for whatever value of coins you insert subject to a minimum charge of 40p and a maximum of £9.60″

In addition, pay and display machines can also accept a wider variety of coins, and many even accept credit cards, making it unnecessary for drivers to carry large amounts of change. The use of credit cards has another advantage – the machines do not have to be emptied of coins as often, and the costs of counting coin and possible pilfering by employees who empty the parking meters also reduces their overall costs. (Wikipedia)

With pay and display you don’t have designated spaces, sometimes allowing for more cars to fit into a given area. However, you can still end up with drivers that park too far from another vehicle, reducing the number of cars that’ll fit.

In the meantime, I’d like to see these motorists get a warning along with an educational piece explaining how to park at parking meters.

– Steve Patterson

  • JZ71

    You say give ‘em a warning and an educational piece, I say just give ‘em a ticket! Laws need to be enforced or repealed, and once you get a (few) ticket(s), you start to pay attention!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Jones/1611723632 Scott Jones

      God knows the city could use the money.

  • T. Giovanni

    I wonder if it should be necessary to define a “space”. You know, I’m not a brain surgeon, but somehow along the way I learned to identify a “space” to be the distance between two adjacent meters. Don’t know how I came to that conclusion, to be honest. But I don’t think it was terribly difficult! It’s just that somehow my pea-brain figured it out–all on its own! (Maybe I should have become a brain surgeon after-all!!!!!) I may have (probably not) given the matter careful consideration, and decided that if I were to center my vehicle “on” the meter vs. “between” the meters, then I’d probably end up blocking the intersection or cross-walk adjacent to the last meter on the block! And in cases where a fire hydrant is located adjacent to the head of a metered space, I probably decided that my 3 dimes and a nickel meter contribution didn’t entitle me to block access to the hydrant! This, I know (or I think I know), wouldn’t be a good situation…. In my humble opinion, anyone unable to figure out the basics maybe shouldn’t be allowed behind the wheel. Period!

    And I wonder how long these warning tickets should be issued? Long enough so that every potential driver in St. Louis is given at least one? Or two? What about the guy who comes to town for the first time ever? Does he get a warning, or is he issued a ticket?

    Before you begin advocating “pay and display”, check out the history of its use in St. Louis City. Several years ago, I remember an experiment with two types of “pay and display” on South Grand. Critics will say that the signage sucked! Well, the signs were clear, and they were well-placed. (Don’t get me wrong! They didn’t reach out and physically GRAB the driver and tell him to deposit $ in a certain location). So what happened? Either drivers parked free, or theyTOTALLY AVOIDED THE PAY AND DISPLAY SPACES, then parked free on the adjacent residential streets. St. Louisans tend to be anti-change, in my humble opinion.

    • http://urbanreviewstl.com/ Steve Patterson

      I blogged about the city’s test when it happened, it was 6-7 years ago and was designed to fail because Larry Williams didn’t want to change. Thankfully he’s out and we have Tishaura Jones as Treasurer now.

      I used to think everyone knew to park between meters too, but I’ve seen enough drivers who clearly don’t get it that I realize something should be done. Perhaps the warming phase is 3 months long and part of a PR campaign to educate drivers.

      • T.Giovanni

        Maybe three years would be more appropriate, since this whole effort seems to cater to the slow learner. And what do we do about those parallel parkers whose ass-end of the car is left 20″+ into the traffic lane because they’re too (select an adjective: important, careless, absentminded, entitled, stupid) to realize what they’ve done? The laws exist on the books. Read them, understand them, or weep!

        • http://twitter.com/YASTLBlog Kevin Barbeau

          The proudest moment of my life was when I executed a perfect two-point park over near the Grizzly Bear in Soulard. With basically NO room for error, I dropped right in, snugly between two large trucks (as my mom, who’s car I was driving that day, said it was impossible).

          I feel sorry for those (select an adjective: important, careless, absentminded, entitled, stupid, etc.) people who will never feel that exhilarating height of achievement. :)

          • aaronlevi

            i bought a newer car recently that has a “reverse sensor” that when your car is in reverse, beeps if there’s something behind you and beeps faster as you get closer to that something. i have amazed myself at some of the parallel spots i have squeezed into since buying this thing.

  • http://twitter.com/YASTLBlog Kevin Barbeau

    I thought it was pretty common (and obvious) knowledge that you pull your car’s front bumper close to perpendicular with the designated meter. Of course, I always thought it was pretty common to know how to parallel park too — until I had to do it a few times for friends meeting me downtown.

    Regarding new pay-and-displays, I’d be cautious to implement these — especially in St. Louis, where paid street parking isn’t as prevalent or necessary as it is in other cities. Often, a City’s public way ends up being held captive by whichever company it outsources the project (and the lion’s share of revenue) to. Chicago’s insane 99-year deal is just one end of the spectrum to that debate.

    However, if the City were to issue a strict moratorium on new garages/lots, and significantly decrease the parking minimum/maximum requirements for new residential/commercial construction, maybe then the risk/reward of outsourcing a pay-and-display system would be warranted as street parking would become a more vital component than it is currently.

  • TL

    One problem that people not parking in the space creates is that it pushes every other space off. I encountered this problem once around SLU. The whole spacing of the meters was off because a few people didn’t park between the meters. I knew this was something that I needed to do, so I eventually found the best spot I could, but was still about a foot in front of the meter. I missed my meter that day and along with a $10 ticket I also received a $25 not in meter space ticket. The thing I noticed though is that none of the other cars that still had meters running and were outside of their spaces received this ticket.

  • RyleyinSTL

    Parking meters have always worked the same way regardless of where I have lived. If you can’t figure out how they work you shouldn’t be driving. The buck has to stop somewhere.

  • JZ71

    Given that some drivers can’t seem to be able to get between the three lines that define the space in a parking lot, what makes you think that “educating” them will allow them to grasp the concept of a “space” that has no lines and is defined solely by a point (the meter)?!

  • aaronlevi

    i was on south grand at the barber shop one time and one jackass parked outside of the meter zone, resulting in about 5-6 other cars doing the same. meter maid came along and gave every one of them a $25 ticket. i luckily wasn’t one of those people, but it was enough to warn me to never park outside of the space.

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