Psst. Insert a quarter in your computer and the name of a hidden tax will be revealed to you.
Just joking. All you need to do is drop your quarter into your favorite parking meter and you’ll discover the answer on your own. You have plenty of opportunity to educate yourself, too, because meters are as plentiful as weeds in an unmown field. You’ll find these so-called “mechanical highway robbers” in city business districts, airports, hospitals, colleges and universities.
Even worse, it may cost far more than a quarter to secure your parking space. Though twenty-five cents used to keep a meter fed for an hour, these days rates can be as much as three dollars for the same amount of time.
Where does all that money go? Some of it is allocated to retire public debt for parking garages and lots. But the meters cost money too, and part of the fees fund maintenance and personnel.
To cut down on these costs, parking meters have evolved from simple mechanical devices to state of the art marvels that can scan bar-coded pre-paid permits. The latest versions track usage patterns and photograph your car when your time expires.
If you’re faced with one of these pay-to-park thieves, forget the quarter. Instead, whip out your credit card and buy a permit. But remember, time is money. Keep track of how much you spend in one spot. Otherwise you’ll end up paying another tax: Parking fines.