Great Moments in Parking History

1910: The Multilevel Garage

The Palmer & Singer Manufacturing Co. garage is one of the earliest multistory garages known to historians. It predates even the multilevel unit at Chicago's LaSalle Hotel. These early structures were known for their wide spaces, which helped neophyte drivers.

1935: The Parking Meter

Carl C. Magee, the Oklahoma City News publisher who later ran unsuccessfully for the Senate, patented the first parking meter to keep employees from taking spots in front of retail stores for eight hours. "The concept at first was hard to grasp," explains Conrad. "They envisioned everything being for free."

1953: Wheel Clamp

The invention of Frank Marugg, a violinist in the Denver Symphony Orchestra. The "Denver Boot" was meant to do for cars what the Oregon Boot did to prisoners. A copy of the original is in the Smithsonian. The Boot spoke to a central tenet of modern parking. Says Conrad: "We're trying to modify behavior."

1994: Cashless Meters

Some new meters in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta allow street parkers to call a number and pay the meter by mobile phone. When their time is running out, they can buy additional minutes via text message. "This is going to grow by leaps and bounds," Conrad says. "This is pretty big."

2011: Sensor Technology

San Francisco will become the first major city to use sensors in the road that alter meter prices depending on how many spaces are open. The goal is to nudge people to park in less congested areas. Smartphone apps will display where spaces are vacant. "It's managing the flow of cars," notes Conrad.

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