Vancouver’s Parking Meters turn 71

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On November 12 it will be 71 years since the first parking meters hit Vancouver. The fee was five cents an hour.

For the first 30 years, police had responsibility for checking the meters, and I bet that assignment was the equivalent of standing in the corner with a dunce cap. Parking meter enforcement was transferred to a civilian force in 1976, and the rates ranged between 10 and 40 cents an hour.

Vancouver’s first parking meter unveiled November 12, 1946, showing Hotel Devonshire and Georgia Hotel in the background. Courtesy CVA 586-4816

Branca Verde was one of the early “meter maids” when she was hired by the City of Vancouver in 1982. There were 12 in total, she told a Vancouver Sun reporter on her retirement last year, and yes, all were women.

The checkers were given some scratchy dark blue fabric and told to make themselves a skirt, long shorts or pants. Then they were handed old jackets from the engineering department-it doesn’t say whether they were new or used.

Meter checker Branca Verde in 1982. Courtesy Vancouver Sun

To outsmart over-parkers who rubbed off the chalk used to mark the tire, the checkers would place a smartie on top of the tire under the wheel well, said Verde.

Today, there are around 10,000 parking meters on Vancouver streets ratcheting up anywhere from $1 to $6 an hour and filling city coffers with $50 million every year and another $20 million in parking tickets.

Gastown parking meters ca.1972. Courtesy CVA 691834

Where was the world’s first parking meter you ask? Well according to Parking-net it was in Oklahoma City on July 16, 1935 and called Park-O-Meter No. 1.


© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.




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  1. Parking meters are both a scourge or a nuisance to Vancouver city motorists. The City of Vancouver has over successive governments to raise parking meter in-effect hours, hourly rates and fines as a means of revenue to pay for bloated projects like the 2010 Olympics for which motorists had no say but will be paying for for the foreseeable future. At the end of the day they are contributing to the reputation for Vancouver as being one of the most expensive cities in Canada.

  2. The parking meter is one of an arsenal of weapons that the Vision Vancouver crowd is using in their war on the car. Both residents and commuters suffer because of Visions assault on the motoring public.
    If I owned a business in Vancouver I would expect that by the time my customers searched for parking , paid for parking they wouldnt be in the mood to spend what little they had left over in my store.

  3. I am shocked at the tone of the comments on the COST of parking in Vancouver. Although its higher than it used to be, as a part of the overall COST of making the trip, its a very very minor element. I am a senior, on a fixed income,still working to make ends meet. If I MUST drive to a downtown location, and park, I have to add that cost to what I charge back to my clients, in addition to my MODO car share costs for the trip. I have often found that overall if there is only myself travelling, its CHEAPER to take a taxi to the meeting, and then use Translink to come home….since then I dont have the “waiting” time charges on the MODO car. (MODO is always cheaper overall than owning a car) Since four people shared the MODO car, and parking costs today for a 5 hour period, each of us will owe about $7.00….of which the parking lot charge is less than half….I think overall, that the City of Vancouver is not making ENOUGH money from the parking charge to cover the services provided to us all….The cost of the parking…either on the street or in a City-owned parkade downtown could easily double and still be affordable.

  4. Here’s trivia for you: the Vancouver agent for the Dual Parking Meter Company was Alvah Ernest Foreman, the son of a city alderman and land developer. He was the chief engineer of the provincial works department, but worked as a private consultant as well and recommended the city buy meters, then sold 1,000 meters to the city at $7 apiece in 1940. However, it being wartime, the transfer of Canadian funds out of the country was disallowed. Thus, we didn’t get them until 1946. See my original VV p. 134 for sources.

  5. I love parking stories. I’ve work for the City for 10years writing parking tickets, and wow have there been changes. Originally, the meters went to 8pm and were free on Sundays. Since then both NPA and Vision Councils have ramped up the parking meters in the city, lots more meters, more days, longer hours and definitely higher rates.

    And as this has happened there has been nary a word from the public of official complaint. Lots of grumbling, but not much opposition. I wonder when Mayor Cornett signed the Parking Meter Bylaw into effect in 1946, how much push back there was against the new scourge of the motorist.

    I’d guess that picture of the first meter was on Hornby at Georgia. Infront of the Hotel Vancouver opposite the VAG. Funnily, there’s no meters or parking left there. It’s been eaten up by the Hornby Bike Lane.

    Things change fast in the big V.

  6. I wonder if this was a posed photo? The car is a 1942-46 Mercury Eight Convertible, pretty classy, but most North American cars looked very similar to this at the time.

  7. I plug my meter happily when I have to. But I can’t help but notice that the giants of retail invariably surround themselves with plenty of free parking. It must be important to do so for the health of their businesses.

    On the other side of the local economy, municipal governments always trot out the “meters make space available” argument while quietly using the income to perpetuate the bureaucracy. I’ve also been gouged in Stanley Park on a sunny day. That’s when I realized our parking czars have no conscience.

    I know who to trust on the question of parking meters.

  8. At current meter income levels, the City of Vancouver is *still* heavily subsidizing the use and ownership of automobiles.

    How much land is consumed by parking spaces? What is that land worth at market value? What other productive uses could that land be put towards?

    Business owners in the city limits: What percentage of your gross revenue is attributed to customers arriving by car? Publish the data and let’s all take a look.

    To those who lament/complain about the “cost” of parking in this city, maybe it’s time to think a little harder about what that says about you.

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