Ocean City Today

High-tech meters need clear policies

Nov 30, 2017



printed 12/01/2017


Oh, for the days of the old-fashioned parking meter, when all anyone had to do get a spot on the street was plunk in coins and walk away.

Not today, however, when meter manufacturers and their government customers have become so enamored of multipurpose meters stuffed with technological gizmos that soon the time will come when you’ll pay for your space and get a readout on your body mass index.

A part of this, of course, is that municipal governments love that parking meter money, hate people who try to cheat on it, and want to spend as little as possible to monitor streets and lots for violations.

That’s not wrong, but it is a little creepy when some meter operating systems have the capacity to gather all sorts of data on the people who use them.

Not that anyone cares about that anymore, given the public’s predilection to sacrifice personal privacy for the sake of convenience.

Still, as the Town of Ocean City considers a pay-by-plate parking approach from international meter maker Parkeon and its phone app Whoosh!, it must do more than accept or reject a contract based on the program’s cost, efficiency and performance.

Also to be considered is the need to establish a clear policy on what it will do with the information that may be available to it via the meters’ software. In addition, the City Council should state its position on other services that could be offered.

That would include, according to Parkeon, the ability to use the meters and presumably the app to sell advertising to local shops and businesses.

Obviously, our motives are selfish in this respect, but it remains that the advertising media in this community — TV, newspapers, radio and digital — are private businesses that shouldn’t have to compete — increasingly — with government.

In the meantime, we fondly recall the ultimate parking solution as demonstrated in 1967. That’s when actor Paul Newman, as “Cool Hand Luke,” walked down Main Street in a drunken haze and cut the heads off every parking meter in sight.

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