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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about parking meters. Sixty-five years ago the rising popularity of the automobile led to the installation of the first parking meters -- in Oklahoma City.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Many cities are so crowded these days that when one does find a parking spot, a parking meter doesn't seem like much of an annoyance. But it wasn’t always that way. And you can thank Oklahoma City for putting in the first parking meters 65 years ago this week. Saying it would help alleviate parking congestion, Oklahoma City officials started charging a nickel an hour to park that Packard. People didn't like it. They didn't like giving up the nickel when parking used to be free, and they didn't trust the clocks on the meters. Well, it turns out that people were right to be suspicious of the timers. Just a few years ago, as part of a science project, a student took a stopwatch to the parking meters in Berkeley, California, and she found that motorists were getting shortchanged, or rather short-timed, all too often. Today's digital meters are supposed to be more accurate, and some even take swipe cards. Incidentally, the first parking ticket was issued on the very same day as the parking meter's debut, and the guilty party had a tale to tell. It seems Oklahoma City Reverend C.H. North had just stepped into a store for a moment nearby to get change to feed the meter, only to find a ticket on the windshield when he returned. Or so he said. Anyone who's ever had to pay a parking fine can certainly say "Amen" to that one. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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