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Why a Small Town Ditched 'Bargain' Parking Meters

At 25 cents an hour, Nevada City, California's meter rates weren't bringing in enough to pay the employees managing them. A fourfold increase will also help the town confront wildfire risk.
August 9, 2019, 7am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Norman Nick

The "quaint" California town of Nevada City long maintained a very reasonable parking meter rate: 25 cents an hour. But now, its city council has voted to raise the price up to one dollar. "The 237 parking meters around town brought in less than $10,000 a month. That wasn't enough to cover the salaries of the public works employees managing them," Laura Bliss writes.

The affordable meters also impacted revenues from tourism, a vital sector for picturesque spots like Nevada City. "And because it was so painless to keep feeding the meters, employees of businesses along Broad Street were known to leave their cars out front for their entire shifts, crowding out other visitors, including all-important tourists."

The new parking rates are estimated to bring in over a half-million dollars a year. According to city council member Erin Minett, 20 percent of that will pay for undergrowth clearance and a fire evacuation siren, crucial measures for a town at risk from the Golden State's intense wildfires.

"Many cities have seen success with raising meter rates and directing the revenue to sorely needed public services," Bliss writes.

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Published on Friday, July 12, 2019 in CityLab
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