Parking Meters: Revenue, Robbery or Lottery?

Mike Palcic
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Mike Palcic

BY MIKE PALCIC – For the second time in a week, I stuffed three quarters into one of Honolulu’s fancy new electric running, wireless communicating, bank card accepting parking meters with the same result: nothing.

Only today, one of Honolulu’s finest parking enforcement officers happened to be right there to help. His story about these expensive devices expanded my knowledge but not my confidence in city governance.


It seems the officers, responsible for maintaining the meters, are poorly trained as to their operation and repair beyond three minor trouble shots. He fears going inside one that he might more likely break it than fix it.

It’s not the first time he’s seen money devoured.

I learned that the battery providing power is supposed to last two years. In reality some last for as little as a month. And they cost $30.

But, fear not. Anyone caught with an “expired” meter gets fined $35. You wouldn’t suppose this is the focus of city leaders?

Is it another “revenue maximizer” in disguise?  Or money for a special “battery freshener” fund?  Perhaps a Vegas-style jackpot awaits some lucky parker. Where’s Batman?

The officer couldn’t figure out what happened with my money, but (here’s the heart-warming part of our story) he used his Bat-Card to put time on my meter.

Hooray for real customer service. (I wonder if he might be disciplined for taking such bold initiative in the field.)

Here’s more ingenuity: the new meters reset to zero when you pull away from the curb, so no one benefits from your having paid too much. And, down at the zoo, when I put a quarter in that machine to go drop a package across the street, it was rejected. The minimum at the zoo lot is a buck. Moreover, some meters that do take quarters won’t accept dimes or nickles and certainly not my lowly pennies.

It is said that life is full of risk, but playing the lottery whenever you park? Holy Meter Maid, Batman!