The History Of The Parking Meter

Whether you live in the city or you’re just visiting, chances are you’ve found yourself searching for coins for the parking meter. The last thing you want after a trip down into the city is a ticket greeting you on the windshield. What’s even more annoying is feeding parking meter coins that only eat them without giving you your purchased time. It’s enough to leave some drivers wondering when did paid parking meters first enter the scene in the U.S. and why?

Carl C. Magee established the history of the first paid parking meter on July 16, 1935, and originally named it the “Park-O-Meter”. Magee moved from New Mexico and relocated to Oklahoma City in 1927. Magee was a news reporter and, once in Oklahoma City, established the Oklahoma News. During this period, growing urban cities suffered from a lack of public parking, and Oklahoma City was no exception. Magee proposed a solution in the form of the Park-O-Meter. The city took his suggestion and installed a Park-O-Meter on the southeast corner of what was then First Street and Robinson Avenue. The parking meter cost a nickel an hour and placed at intervals of 20 feet. 

The Park-O-Meter, unsurprisingly, entered the scene with mixed reactions. Reporter William H. Orrick Jr., with the California Law Review, wrote that the Park-O-Meter was “hailed as the greatest traffic invention since the stoplight”. City officials applauded the Park-O-Meter and justified it as an effective way to limit the number of cars allowed to park on the side of the street, thus reducing traffic. As imagined, drivers were not thrilled and held some of the same frustrations as modern-day drivers. People were angry and claimed the parking meters were just a sleazy money-making scheme for the city. Some drivers even went as far as suing their cities over parking charges. The local governments won the majority of the lawsuits. The states deemed the parking meters legitimate and effective at regulating the flow of traffic.

The parking meter has lived multiple lifetimes and is here to stay. By the 1940’s, over one hundred thousand units were created. Some U.S. cities even started experimenting with additional alternatives and upgrades to the conventional parking meter. Parking meters, though annoying, do assist with regulating the flow of traffic. While these pesky meters can hurt your pockets, a few coins are always the better alternative to a parking ticket.