The first parking meter was installed on July 16, 1935 and the first parking ticket issued in August of 1935. The “lucky” recipient was an Oklahoma City pastor named Reverend C. H. North. The reason he didn’t put in the required nickel to park is that he didn’t have a nickel. When he went to court a few weeks later and explained that he had gone inside to get change, the judge dismissed the ticket. No such luck today. That reason, or excuse, is now as ancient history as parking for five cents.
Who Invented the parking meter?
The inventor was not even an inventor. Carlton Cole Magee had moved to Oklahoma to start a newspaper after working as a reporter in New Mexico. He came up with the idea of paying to park as a way to alleviate the traffic problem growing in cities across America.
The first meter was actually designed by a professor at Oklahoma State, Holger George Thuessen and an engineering graduate, Gerald A. Hale. It was a challenging assignment from Magee because the meters had to be useable in year-round weather conditions, be safe from vandals and be cost-efficient.
They named the first meter the Black Maria. In 1935, Magee patented the Park-O-Meter and formed the Magee-Hale Park-O-Meter Company to manufacture the meters.
Fast forward to the parking meter today
Living in Evanston, Illinois, I recently received an update email from the city that all but 110 parking meters had now been changed to solar/battery powered meters that accept both coins or credit cards.
If you don’t know Evanston, it’s the home of Northwestern University, located on the North Shore of Chicago in Cook County. Over seventy thousand residents live in a little under eight square miles on the shore of Lake Michigan. Parking is a big issue, as it is in all urban areas. Even where there are no meters, signs are posted everywhere: no parking on certain days for street cleaning or snow removal, no parking in loading zones or driveways, no parking between such and such hours, reserved parking or you name it. Here, meters charge 25 cents per quarter hour with a typical maximum time of two hours. If your vehicle is caught with an expired meter, the ticket in Evanston (called citations now) is $10. If you park in a no parking zone, $30. If you park longer than the maximum time allowed, $35.
When it comes to parking in Chicago, it speaks volumes that there is a website called The Expired Meter dedicated to the subject of driving in the Windy City. Not moving your car for Chicago street cleaning for instance will currently cost you sixty bucks.
In Los Angeles, the conversion to Coin and Card meters is already generating millions in annual revenue. L.A. meters cost up to $5 an hour. An expired parking meter ticket will put you out $63.
In Manhattan, meters range from $1.00 to $3.50 an hour. The price for parking in excess of allowed time ranges from $35 to $65. Ouch.