Sunday, April 11, 2010

Muni (not puny) Meters

As some of you have figured out I am in the business of creating the ultimate street parking map for New Yorkers and the Manhattan version (already available @ parallelspaces.com) was the true test of whether our mad scientist's parking rules with all their complicated phases and contradictions could even be put into readable symbols on a map. I, of course, love my solution. You can decide for yourself, but, at least, you have to agree that it’s a cool resource to have. Anyway, in the ongoing effort to perfect this map even further, I occasionally like to get a refreshing workout by crawling up the massive tower wall of the DOT to seek out whatever tiny morsels our government, in their overflowing tables of data and closely guarded data of tables, have left behind for us. The more chance I get to see data versions and updates, the more I can spot the occasional trend in our city government’s conniving (er, thinking) about parking regulations. As I was enjoying some free time the other day sifting through my latest DOT Parking Data playing my favorite game I call Needle in a Laughing Haystack (or Laughingstock for short), I was looking for any new regulations that would actually make possible some brand new parking spaces somewhere, anywhere, in Manhattan. And here’s the shock, at least for me. There are some.
If you’re like me, you know that the DOT spends all its waking hours scheming and conspiring, squeezing and twisting, dealing and wheeling to make parking in this city a living Hell. I can see the late night lights in their windows and their deformed, broken silhouettes as they mix concrete and diesel, time and money, love and hate in endless midnight ceremonies to concoct powerful potions that just to be poured on our city streets shrivel up available parking everywhere they seep underground...
Turns out I was wrong. Yes, the DOT is out there attempting to balance traffic congestion and delivery truck schedules, commerce and tourism, even living and dying but, yes, they also keep an eye toward freeing up good old car parking at those times and places when the rest of the desperate mob is not thrusting their steel and cement elbows into powerful ribs.
So we have won some and lost some, but by far the greatest trend I have noticed lately is the Muni Meters. They are everywhere fast and I don’t know the timetable for the extinction of the good old, loyal parking meter and all of its small town charms, but you can bet that old fashioned, coin guzzling contraption with its “Feed me Seymour!” demands and its relentlessly clownish expression that nickels and dimes us to death will strangely be missed. Those mechanical men, not to mention the gainfully employed that empty those meters, will become fondly remembered museum pieces soon enough.
It is the inevitable push into the electronic age and touch credit lifestyle that will probably someday make dollars and sense obsolete, you say, and no doubt you are right. But it is also (and always) just business. With the arrival of this new, I-Am-Always-Right electronic tyrant, that doesn’t even pretend to have a face, gone forever is the fun of pulling into a space with that partially (or even completely) full meter.
Been missing that "I’m lucky" feeling lately? Well, get used to it. Because Muni Meters, and their entire alien civilization, are moving in fast, and, in addition to some of those cool new conveniences, we will now always have to spend the full price of Metered Parking. And with Muni Meters isn’t the city’s ability to raise meter rates now as quick and easy as the tapping of our Mayor’s congestion-pricing fingertips (Oops! It already has in its Park Smart program.). Damn if they didn’t find another way to tax us, because the chances that an equally harried, rushed, multi-tasking New Yorker will offer you her overpaid Muni Meter Parking Receipt as she is pulling out are about as likely as those that she will suddenly hand you her phone number. (Maybe she could write it on the receipt?) Bottom line: from now on, the full price of parking in that space (and any playing-it-safe overpayment that you kindly donate to our NYC coffers) will be paid to the city, or else!

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