#TIL: From free to metered: Story of Parking Meters

By Snehil Singh

Parking meters lined up in Oklahoma City

The 1920s was an era of the economic boom that made it possible for many people to finally own a car. While this spelt good news for the fast-growing automobile industry, it was a cause of rising concern for many American cities that were unprepared for the high influx of vehicles.

The concept of regulated parking was unheard of. People would just park their cars in the streets and leave them there until they needed them again. In shopping areas, most of the parking spaces were occupied by workers who worked downtown. It was hurting business, owing to agitated customers leaving without paying a visit to the stores. The insistent complaints from shop owners in Oklahoma led Carl C. Magee, a newsman, to think of designing a coin collecting timing machine. This led to the invention of the first parking meter, Park-o-Meter, which was installed at a downtown street in Oklahoma City in 1935.

First Parking Meter in Oklahoma in 1935

As businesses immediately noticed a positive effect within a few days after the installation of the meter, business owners from different streets demanded that they also get parking meters installed in front of their stores. The installation of the parking meters did not only solve the traffic problems but also created a revenue stream for the local businesses and administration. With time, these enforcement devices became a trend and have been captured in pop culture through songs like Lovely Rita by The Beatles or smashed to bits in movies like Cool Hand Luke.

From paying with coins to paying via smartphones today, the evolution of parking meters transformed the way we move!

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