Despite its tony restaurants, the accolade that always slots Portland in top-10 lists, there is one distinct aspect that has set this city apart from larger, more cosmopolitan municipalities for decades — the low cost of parking your car.
Since the 1980s, a dollar in coins would get you two full hours at just about any meter in town — enough time to catch a movie or a cut and a partial foil. In Boston, you’d need a bag of coins to do the same, if you could find a parking spot at all.
Well, save your quarters, dimes, and nickels, folks, because Portland has joined the big girls in the tiny roadside slot machines that never produce a jackpot.
I was confused last week when I popped two quarters into a meter expecting my usual hour of dodging a boot, only to realize that my safety zone would last a mere 40 minutes. Upon very close inspection, I found a sticker that confirmed my fear: a quarter now gets me 20 minutes, a dime only eight, and a nickel a mere four minutes — not even enough time to hop out and grab a cup of coffee.
That’s right, according to Nicole Costales, the Customer Service Dispatch for the Office of Parking Administration in Portland, the city decided to raise parking-meter rates after an extensive survey of rates in other large cities throughout the country.
“[What we found] is that every other city charges a significantly higher amount in their meters than we do,” says Costales, further justifying the decision. “And, our rates haven’t changed since the ’80s.”
Costales said that she has “no idea” whether the decision to raise rates has anything to do with an effort to swell city coffers, but she did say that residents were given advance notice of the change.
And, Costales revealed that no one seems to mind.
“We haven’t had any complaints at all. We put a notice in the paper [not this one] for a few weeks as an FYI, and no one has called,” she explains, adding that people like me absolutely would not get a reprieve should a ticket or boot result from failing to add minutes correctly.
“It has the rate right on the meter.”
Most meters, that is. Some have been spotted by Phoenix staff that, as of last week, did not have said stickers.
But, fear not — even though the cost of parking on the street has increased, Portland retains its affordable charm in other ways. Whereas it may cost you $15 for an hour of parking in a garage or lot in other cities, you can still shelter your vehicle for $2 or less in many of Portland’s fine garages. What a bargain.