FREAK Shots: A Cheap Parking Spot

Reader Tina Gao sent in this photo of a parking spot in Rockport, Mass., and asked, “[W]hy would anyone ever pay more than a penny for the spot?” Can anyone offer an explanation for this pricing? If nothing else, Rockport gives us something to do with all those pennies we’d rather throw away. On the other hand, parking this cheap is probably not very good for the environment.



Prevents people from using these spaces for long term parking. I'd bet the expired meter fine is very expensive.

Jordan Brown

Why would anybody pay more?

Because they don't have a penny, but do have a nickel or dime?

Ian Kemmish

Maybe they got lots of complaints from nearby shops about people running in to change nickels and dimes into cents? Unless your time really isn't worth very much at all, it's now cheaper just to insert whatever the smallest coin in your pocket is. It would be interesting to learn what the average is.

Of course, being a Brit and a cyclist, I have no idea what the market rate for other parking spaces in Massachusetts actually is.....

Eileen Wyatt

It looks to me as if the tiny, tourism-driven, sea-coast village of Rockport:

(a) Wants the 30-minute limit on street parking, in order to prevent its on-street parking from being taken by local employees and by visitors parking for the entire day. I'd guess those parkers are to be routed to a lot or garage that charges more. Half an hour's parking provides a convenience for people just running to grab a cup of coffee or duck into one store -- people who might otherwise skip the errand entirely at a higher parking price.

(b) Does not consider revenues from these meters important, possibly thanks to a higher-priced lot elsewhere.

(c) Has old meters and does not want to replace them, nor to take on the staffing for tire-marking patrols that are needed if one doesn't have meters. So any coin the meter will take gets you 30 minutes.


i think it's clear that the municipality did not install these meters to generate revenue but merely to aid in enforcement of a 30 minute parking zone. allowing for nickels and dimes was merely a way to make the parking zone more accommodating for potential parkers that may not always have a penny on them.

Richard Elsen

Prohibitive parking restrictions affect local trade in a seaside town, as do facilities that allow motorists to park all day, thereby blocking the parking opportunities for shoppers who will typically want a relatively short time to transact their business. Also, no-change machines are cheaper to buy and maintain, because they are less complicated and only need to be emptied. Additionally, these machines are unattractive to thieves and vandals as the risk/return ratio of ripping them off makes the crime not worth doing.

James Curran

well, I have to assume the elsewhere in the area the meters read something like

Two Hour Limit

10 min for each penny
1 hr for each nickel
2 hrs for each dime.

And they wanted to kep the same format.

Lowell Smith

Who collects and counts the pennies, rolls them, and deposits them in the bank.....probably a highly paid public employee.


To me it looks like the issue at hand was limiting max parking time. So yes parking is partially free but you have to leave (or refresh you meter) in 30 min.


Maybe this is a standard sticker from the manufacturer that somebody forgot to change.


I agree with KO. All your pennies, nickles and dimes can only buy you 30 minutes per the max time limit notice. I would bet the coin slot does not allow for quarters, half dollars or dollars. Confusion about this would likely reap the city more money because some may be trying to buy more time and keep dropping in coins. All you can get is 30 minutes. THEN LEAVE!

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

THere are other reasons for parking meters besides REVENUE GENERATION. It is to encourage shoppers to patronize businesses in town by having rapidly turned-over, cheap and open parking.

By limiting time to 30 minutes, they are encouraging short visits and probably short commerce volumes in things like Starbucks, dry cleaning, takeout dining and NYTimes purchases.

This revenue stream generates local taxes that far outweigh 20c ents per hour of parking revenue. That is using taxing or fees in a smart way to help local merchants.


In our Little City there is a big hubbub about so-called "predatory towing", which is when a lot owner tows cars belonging to people who park there and who then, perhaps after shopping in one store served by the lot, walk to another store not served by the lot, the library, etc.

Our City Fathers and Mothers think this is terrible. I think it is consonant with property rights (plenty of signs are posted). An argument in favor is that people avoid very short, polluting, trips. I think this is swamped by the fact that the store owner might want to have spaces open for real-time shoppers, it's his property, etc.

Rene Duba

In addition to what others have already suggested, there may also be legal considerations involved:

In some countries, there may be different types of fines. If the police gives you a fine for parking where you shouldn't (in a dangerous place for instance), then the money you pay goes directly to the state (in some countries, at least).

If you park your car on a parking spot where you should pay, but you don't (or you did, but then outstayed your 30 minutes) then it may be considered as "evasion of municipal taxes". In which case you receive a municipal fine. As the name suggests, the money goes directly to the municipality.

A parking meter may be the legal way for the municipality to claim territory.


I'd say it's to turn the meters over -

Charlotte K

Charge a quarter! Anyone who isn't handicapped shouldn't be driving in Rockport. It uglies up the town and the streets are too crowded anyway. about a dollar coin! That would really discourage parking.

Loren Pechtel

It's obvious these are simply a means of enforcing a 30 minute parking limit. I doubt they take in enough to pay for themselves.


It seems obvious to me; what the meter is really saying is put in any coin in your pocket and you can park for 30 minutes.


There is an area of cleveland Ohio where the first 30 minutes are free. But you have to turn the dial (without inserting a coin). These meters allow for many hours of parking...


Great Post! Rockport, Mass. happens to be one of my favorite spots. In all my years of going there, I've never been able to figure out their parking. It happens to be a very small town, and there is only one lot that I can remember. In years past, parking was often free during the heavy vacation months and meter based during the quieter ones. My guess is that the new parking system is put in place for the convenience of those shopping (whatever change you might have works) and to prevent the beachgoers from taking the storefront spots.