In the latest effort to drive shoppers to the malls, Spokane leaders are trying to rob the downtown parking public of our one last sliver of joy:
Snagging a parking meter with unexpired time.
I believe I speak for every downtown parker when I say that scoring bonus meter time is like winning the poor man’s lotto.
And now Mayor Jim West wants to deprive us of these small victories against “The Man.”
The mayor wants to yank out the business core’s coin-drop meters – despite the fact that they’re paid for and work all too well – and replace them with 77 solar-powered parking stations that sell for 8 grand a whack.
Isn’t the city still trying to untangle itself from that River Park Square garage boondoggle?
Do we really need another parking fiasco?
West was able to hypnotize the City Council into unanimously agreeing to the following science fiction experiment: For the next 90 days, drivers can give the cutting edge parking stations a tryout at four locations.
You can’t miss them. The four loaner kiosks are green and have a white “P” on the sides, which stands for “plunder.”
Like hucksters demonstrating miracle mops at a county fair, West and other city figures have been holding court at the kiosks to schmooze and cajole the witless.
I met hizzoner Thursday afternoon on Main near Restoration Hardware. I moored my ‘67 tuna boat and walked over to get a ticket from a pay station.
“Read the instructions,” West advised.
“It’s too complicated,” I complained.
“No it’s not,” the mayor scolded. “You’re an idiot!”
The mayor and I enjoy an open line of communication.
Eventually, I inserted my debit card and bought $1.25 worth of parking. The machine spat out a ticket bearing an expiration time. Then, as per instructions, I stuck the ticket “to inside of curbside window.”
What politician wouldn’t want these wonder gizmos? They take what used to be a one-step process (put coin in meter) and turn it into a six-step inconvenience. 1. Put money in machine. 2. Walk back to car. 3. Open car door. 4. Put sticker on window. 5. Close car door. 6. Curse.
It’s a mirror image of government.
West loves it that these things take plastic as well as change. But the real selling point was stated in a newspaper story the other day: “City officials said the new machines, if installed throughout downtown, might increase revenue by 10 to 20 percent because the tickets would eliminate the opportunity of parking in a slot where the meter has not expired.”
Doesn’t the city rake in enough booty from its fleet of meter pirates who hand out parking tickets like they’re giving away pamphlets at a political pep rally?
I long for those good old days, when you didn’t need to waste your hard-earned American money to park in Spokane. The city’s wind-up meters would accept Canadian coins or pesos or metal washers or …
(Helpful consumer tip: There are still some analog meters scattered around. I tested two on Third near the liquor store with Canadian quarters and they worked swell.)
Then the city wised up and replaced most of the wind-ups with digital meters. The accursed things aren’t fooled by my alternative money schemes.
But this system is not avaricious enough for a forward-thinking mayor like West. During a trip to Portland, he encountered the new parking stations and saw the future. Seattle is also converting to these armless bandits.
But that doesn’t mean we have to join the parade. If Seattle and Portland told Spokane to jump off the Monroe Street Bridge, would we?
Maybe instead of emulating Seattle and Portland we should try to be more like Coeur d’Alene, where parking is free.
No wonder it’s called the city with a heart.
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