Parking Wars is the apropos name for it. That would be struggling to stay “legal” at a downtown parking meter. Parking Wars refers to the officers who patrol any city with meters up against those folks who live and ultimately park there.
Doug Moe in The Wisconsin State Journal in his article, “It’s like our very own “Parking Wars,” reports on the city of Madison’s proposal to raise meter rates and says it has brought an immediate backlash from the downtown merchants.
The meter system was designed to be a good thing. It was first designed not so much as a revenue issue as it was a fairness issue.
As more and more cars were on America’s roads, there was more and more competition for downtown meters. Of course that is one of the problems with downtown, it has limited space.
Years ago people took the bus or trolley downtown. Cities were essentially a pedestrian phenomenon.
However as the cars increased it became almost impossible to get a parking place. So cities put in meters. The original idea was to create fairness. Nobody was supposed to stay at a meter all day. In fact in our city for awhile, the parking officer would “mark” the tires and even if you “plugged” the meter, you would be ticketed. You weren’t giving another citizen a chance to enjoy downtown in a convenient way.
Of course today most parking meters are downtown and the city doesn’t care who is parked there they want municipal revenues. Most of the time people who park there work downtown.
However, there is still a modicum of retail sales going on and these people are in a very real way in competition with suburban malls. People who park downtown for work will spend money at stores.
If you stop and think about it if you plug your meter at the rate of a quarter an hour you will spend two dollars per day. If you don’t make it to the meter on time to plug it most of the time the ticket might be something like five bucks. Seven dollars per day parking fee really isn’t too bad. Now, though, the city is going to mess that up.
Of note in my city is that if you park at a parking garage the daily maximum fee will be around five dollars or competitive with pulling shenanigans on the streets.
“Parking Wars” may seem like a minor thing but it shows, I think, the lack of foresight on the part of cities.
Many functions occur downtown that raise money for the city. If the city fails to make the streets inviting they lose revenue.
Malls in suburbs almost always have unlimited parking so that there is easy access.
The fact that city governments haven’t figured out how to effectively deal with parking may be one reason why there is so much decentralization today.