April 14, 2009
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By Jordan W. Charness
Harry is a very nice guy. He has a fabulous wife and two beautiful daughters and truly seems to have it all. He is also a regular reader of this column and seems to delight in trying to find questions that I would not be capable of answering. I have to admit that his latest question pretty well has me stumped. So I thought that I would toss it out to you and see what your response would be.
It seems that Harry was half paying attention to a local talk show on the radio and thought that he heard the announcer raise the topic of what exactly happens when you put money into a parking meter. As Harry remembers it, the talk show host had wanted to reserve a parking spot for her spouse who was circling and looking for a place to park. Why exactly she was separated from her husband and her car was not entirely clear to Harry, but then again he wasn’t exactly paying full attention to the show.
Just as things started to get interesting on the radio, Harry arrived at his destination and turned the show off. This act however did not turn off his thinking cap and Harry spent the rest of the day pondering and developing the following question for me.
“If putting money in a parking meter means that you have rented that particular spot of pavement for a specific period of time, does that mean that you could set up a chair and tables and have a picnic in the parking spot instead of parking a car?”
While Harry’s question, like many of his musings, seemed somewhat far-fetched he does raise an interesting point or two.
To begin with, is putting money into a parking meter a contract of short-term rental or is it more like an admission fee allowing you entrance to a facility with your car but not really allowing you to do much more than park there?
While one might argue that if you’ve paid your quarters and dollars you have reserved a place and would be entitled to just stand in that spot for two hours rather than parking your car, others would argue that you are only purchasing parking rights from the city and must actually use the space for parking.
Another might argue that as long as you kept feeding the meter you could permanently park a camper trailer and live in the parking space instead of paying rent to a landlord. Harry tried to make it as confusing as he could.
I must admit that there are not a lot of places to research an answer to this type of question. I do know however that there are regulations that imply that streets are for vehicles and sidewalks are for pedestrians. That being the case you could say that since you are forbidden to drive a car on the sidewalk you would be equally forbidden to picnic in a parking space on the road even if you have paid the meter.
I would be more inclined to look at your money in the meter as prepayment for the right to park a vehicle in a certain space since that is all that is really being offered by the city. They put up parking meters so that they can earn revenue from your parking. The city is not collecting rent in its parking meters for any other purpose.
If you have a better answer or even a more creative one please drop me a note and I’ll be happy to publish the more interesting responses I receive in a future column.