Yes, it’s a private, self-service parking meter. And the black slash is nothing more than a long strip of duct tape. The only other indicator of this meter’s functionality is in a post-it note:
No doubt this happens all the time, just as we routinely encounter on-street parking meters (serviced by their respective cities) in a state of disrepair. The
On a busy weekend night in
But there are the exceptions, and this lot, servicing the National World War II museum, is available at night. And in this instance, a poorly maintained automated attendant gives motorists a triple reward: a) off-street parking so it’s protected from errant drivers or pedestrian vandals; b) surface level so there’s no hassle of walking up our down a flight of stairs to get to one’s space; c) and in an area with high density of parking demand, it’s free! It’s as good as the suburbs! And my original three heuristics for seeking parking, mentioned in an earlier blog post, still applies: close parking is good but cheap parking is better; time and distance are less important than stalking that coveted cheap spot; time and distance cease to have any significance whatsoever if the spot you find is free.
In the case of the above photographs, we had exhausted all three heuristics. We weren’t even seeking free parking at the time we found this spot; it just happened to be our luck. And we were never questioned for violating the rules, so essentially the broken automated parking attendant was our get-out-of-jail-free card. If the machine hadn’t been shrouded in the darkness of night, I’m sure plenty of others would have caught on, though at the time that we parked there, only a select few other motorists had noticed this terrific opportunity.
Self-service parking meters, both the city-managed on-street variety and these private off-street variants, are not exactly a realm in which
But where does that leave the population seeking the nightlife of the Warehouse District or the nearby French Quarter but too lazy to take one of New Orleans’ classic streetcars to get downtown? They follow the classic pattern of looking for parking: first where it is on-street and typically free because the meters are no longer in effect, then where they have to pay (the cheaper the better). We as Americans—but probably we as humans—have an embedded ideation that unconsciously hones in on free parking. We crave it. And yet, because surface lots such as these so rarely accommodate evening parking, the average local New Orleanian will complain about how hard it is to find parking on a weekend night. (Translation: it’s hard to find free parking.) Such a claim is only ridiculous because the ocean of surface lots at Rampart and O’Keefe are both off limits and far from most of the nightlife. But what about a city that really does have a shortage of parking—where the aggregate number of lots is genuinely dwarfed by the number of drivers seeking parking downtown? Does such a city exist in