Yesterday, I slipped my credit card into a solar-powered parking kiosk in the Baltimore neighborhood of Fells Point. Two dollars gave me a little receipt to put on my dashboard, which was good for two hours worth of parking in a prime spot on Broadway. I found the open spot within a minute. We enjoyed a walk around the harbor area and a nice dinner at a Fells Point restaurant.
This meter system has been in place in Baltimore for around five years, and it's been popular among business owners, the local government, and the public as a whole. There is only need for one machine per ten parking spots, which reduces street clutter. There's no more shuffling around for change. Meter collection theft is managed. Variable pricing could be a possibility. What's not to like about these new systems that are being installed in cities around the country?
That is if you believe that those who park should pay for their own parking. In some areas, many people still believe motorists have an inalienable right to have their cars stored for free (or at least really cheaply). Matthew Yglesias has an analogy for this particular form of government subsidy.
"It’s overwhelming conventional wisdom in the United States that price controls are bad. If I suggested that the city implement price controls on Diet Coke, people would say that it would lead to shortages. And if I proposed dealing with the ensuring shortages by saying that anyone who wants to build a new building needs to also provide millions of dollars worth of Diet Coke to people in the neighborhood, people would look at me as if I were insane. Creating the Diet Coke shortages is not a favor to anyone—neither fans nor haters of Diet Coke benefit—and the regulatory mandate is an absurd subsidy to Diet Coke drinkers with no conceivable policy justification. It’s bizarre."