I Saw the Signs
There’s a lovely shopping and dining district in my city. The street is lined with great restaurants and pricey boutiques, galleries, hat stands, and gelato counters.
During the day, people show up in their workout gear or covered in sunblock and sand. They eat giant slices of pizza and ice cream sandwiches. The trees are huge, and there’s usually a pleasant breeze.
At night, the crowd gets dressier. Twinkle-lights go on after dark, and people wander up and down doing nothing and everything. I love it there, and enjoy feeling like a tourist in my own town.
Naturally, parking gets tight in this area. Besides all the fun stuff, there are banks, hair salons and a grocery store that draw traffic. There are plenty of parking spaces nearby, but not many along the street itself. The only free parking is in a tiny lot at the grocery store and whatever can be found in surrounding neighborhoods, but most of that is taken up by the people who actually live there. Metered parking is the way to go.
Just a few weeks ago, I drove into this area and saw the blinky lights of a roadway message board. I saw the sign, but I didn’t read it. Two or three visits later, I read it. It said, “Meters Enforced Until 9 PM.” I read it, but didn’t process the information.
Some days later, I drove by again and thought about what it meant for about two seconds before my thoughts fluttered elsewhere. I’m guessing I saw this sign, in two different locations, seven or eight times before I recognized what it meant. Then I groaned, or maybe I growled. Some kind of angry noise came out of my mouth.
I’m rarely in this part of town after 8 p.m., but I am frequently there around 5:30 or 6 p.m., and I get a lot of use out of free meter time during those hours just after enforcement ends.
It’s a kink in my routine, but not a tragedy.
Then last week, on my way to the grocery store, I eyeballed the sign again. It said something different this time: “Meter Rates Have Changed (blink) Check Meters For New Rates” Again, bitter noises came out of my mouth, some in the form of words.
While so far this column reads as one long rant against a meter policy change in my town, that’s not all I have to say. Of course, I don’t want to pay for a parking for longer hours or a higher price. Nobody wants that.
But I do comprehend the economics of the situation and accept that, just as gas isn’t 89-cents a gallon the way it was when I was 16, I’m not going to get an hour of parking for a nickel anymore either. The credit card-capable meters that went in two years ago were the first warning; the brightly-lit signs were the second.
I really miss gasoline priced under a dollar, and I’ll miss my free parking after 6 p.m. Fifteen minutes for 25 cents was already a lot more than I wanted to spend, so 10 minutes for 25 cents will be slightly more aggravating, if I decide to dwell on it.
What I am happy about is the effort my city made to alert me and so many others to this change in policy. The signs have been up for weeks, and I’m sure they’ll be up for several weeks more. It took me awhile to notice them and absorb their content, and I work for a parking industry magazine. What about all the other fools out there obliviously drinking their coffee, eating frozen yogurt and buying straw hats?
I’m grateful for the warning, because I’ve lived here a long time, and I wasn’t going to re-read the tiny little rate descriptions on the meters. I wasn’t going to notice a change unless it was glaringly obvious – and I’m a lot more attentive to parking trends than most.
Hopefully, enforcement officers will hand out a few weeks’ worth of warnings before they start writing tickets.
Given the crowds and the tourist traffic, this isn’t an easy area to manage. Despite the prominent advertising strategy, I have no doubt many will be completely unaware of the new meter policies. Tickets will be issued, and city staff will have to listen to the indignant whining of those who swear there was no notice provided. But I won’t be one of them.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is Parking Today’s proofreader, occasional writer and amateur parker. She can be reached