Technology, Taxes, and Parking


One wouldn’t expect a short article on parking revenue, such as Patrick Anderson’s in yesterday’s Providence Journal, to be so fascinating, but I can’t shake a couple of ideas.  The first is that we aren’t being told something about how fancy new digital meters will actually increase money for the City of Providence.  Oddly, that’s the headline of the article, but it’s drawn mainly from the very last paragraph:

The new meters take credit cards, which England said encourages people to buy longer parking times, and they feature flashing red lights that make it easier to see when they are expired. The new meters can also be programmed remotely for higher rates during events or periods of peak demand.

So bright lights start flashing when the meters run out (how lovely), which presumably can alert both car owners and meter officers and are connected remotely.  I wonder: Will they also send notices to enforcement officers when the clock runs out?  Given modern technology, the system could automatically create a GPS map calculating the shortest path to hit every car that’s currently out of time, with self-printing tickets.  Now that would be a revenue generator.

The second thought that nags around the edges of the article comes from the bulk of the city’s complaints — namely, the millions of dollars in unpaid fines.  Fines are supposed to be a tool of enforcement, but one gets the sense that the government thinks of them first as a source of revenue, and the per-vehicle profit from a fine is many times that of a typical instance of legal parking.  In that regard, the government has incentive to trip people up.

Perhaps the uniting discussion that demands recollection concerns the purpose of meters.  The reason government gets into this business — I thought — is to manage the limited amount of parking available on public roads, not simply to make money.  If that’s the case, then there’s no reason digital meters couldn’t simply keep a running tab on the driver’s credit card and even send a warning text when a maximum period of time approaches.  Those two variables — time and cost — would give officials room to manage traffic to suit the needs of the area.

Of course, they wouldn’t allow for favoritism or the windfall of getting people to break the law and bring big fines on their heads.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    The reason government gets into this business — I thought — is to manage the limited amount of parking available on public roads, not simply to make money.

    I can’t recall a time when I heard it referred to as other than a “revenue source”

    • ShannonEntropy

      The Gum·Mint is always looking for ways to fleece us out of our cash

      “Speed Traps” on State & municipal roads are another example …

      TOWING is a huge business in La·Prov … getting a City Towing Contract there is like get a license to print yer own US currency

      • Mike678

        Note the word “contract.” Imagine how much safer you’d feel parking illegally if the Towing was done by gov’t union employees?

        Perhaps La Prov should incentivize Private Investigators to go after disability cheats–offer these hard-working capitalists 30% of what the cheat would have made that year if evidence is produced and the perp convicted.

        • Rhett Hardwick

          During the Cianci investigation the point was made that some tow operators “donated” $100,000. Why wasn’t the Providence Journal all over that one? A “police tow” pays about 5 times what AAA pays for a tow. AAA pays about $28.00 (at least the last time I asked). What this state needs is a good newspaper. When I lived in Boston, it seems that towing was alternated year to year between private companies and the police. After a year it would be determined that the private companies were corrupt and it would be given to the police, a year, or so, later it would be determined the police were impossibly corrupt and it would be given to private companies. I think the towers and police were in cahoots. One car I had stolen was reported to me as “found” 35 days after it was stolen (and 5 days after the insurance company had to pay). It was “found” in a tow lot, where it had been for three weeks. Naturally they bought it from the insurance company for a song.