Don Shoup has been asked by the IPI to comment on the "reality" TV Series "Parking Wars" on A and E. He was kind enough to share his comments with me:
I thought the program was very sympathetic to the problems faced by parking
enforcement officers. The program also showed that Philadelphia’s obsolete
parking meters cause most of the problems for both drivers and parking
enforcement officers. From
the user’s point of view, most American parking meters remain identical to the
original 1935 model: you put coins in the meter to buy a specific amount of
time, and you risk getting a ticket if you don’t return before your time
The original purpose of parking meters was to enforce the time
limits for curb parking, and thus ensure turnover so that as many cars as
possible could park in the limited number of curb spaces. The parking meter’s
main purpose is still the same: it limits the allowed time at the curb, and the
prohibition against feeding the meter is intended to ensure turnover. The price
of curb parking is usually too low to ensure vacancies or frequent turnover
without time limits.
The technology of paying for most commercial
goods and services evolved rapidly in the last century, with ceaseless
innovation in cash registers, bar code readers, credit cards, debit cards, and
smart cards. These innovations have made commerce more convenient for shoppers
and more efficient for merchants. In contrast, the technology of paying parking
stagnated, until quite recently.
Traditional parking meters require
drivers to carry exact change and decide in advance how long they want to park.
Subsequent concern about the need to return before the meter expires can create
“meter anxiety.” Many drivers end up either paying for more time than they use,
or not paying enough and risking a ticket. New technology, however, allows
drivers to pay for curb parking without carrying exact change and without
deciding in advance how long they want to park. Buying time at the curb can now
be as convenient as any other of life’s daily transactions—no more complicated
than buying a loaf of bread or a quart of milk.
With the new
technology now available, drivers can pay with credit cards, debit cards, and
cell phones for exactly the time they use. Some cities, such as Redwood City in
California, have adopted this new technology and removed the time limits for
curb parking. If other cities adopt this technology, the lives of both parkers
and parking enforcement officers will improve greatly. Parking Wars
showed how bad their lives are now.
Here is a link to Redwood City’s new