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Open Shutter to the Past: San Francisco in Pictures – SF's First Parking Meter (1947)

Welcome back to Photo Friday – my little way taking a break from San Francisco Real Estate and instead blogging about our great City’s past instead. All photos are published with permission from the San Francisco History Center and San Francisco Public Library.

I frickin hate parking meters.  Seriously.  I get a few tickets a month at minimum.  I have a budget for the tickets – which is kind of a ridiculous notion.  And I get so many of them that I fantasize about writing them off as an expense on my taxes.  In fact, parking meters are sort of my nemesis

So why the hell am I posting a photo of the very first parking meter in San Francisco? 

(By the way, that’s Mayor Roger Lapham testing the “First Gadget Installed at Bush and Polk Streets” in 1947!)

Recently, a few things have come along that made me hate parking meters just a smidge less. 

First, came the SFMTA pre-paid parking card.  These things are pretty convenient for the most part.  They come in $20 and $50 amounts, and they’re much lighter than carrying $20 or $50 worth of change with you everywhere you go. 

There are some drawbacks to the cards though – they don’t always work, in which case, you’d better STILL have some change with you, and you have to remember to buy them when you the cards run out of money.  They’re also not rechargeable, which means the card ends up being waste (I thought we are working on being the greenest City ever???  Step it up SFMTA!) 

I still get more than my fair share of parking tickets, even with this card in my wallet – but that’s because my meter usually runs out while I’m in the middle of a meeting, or showing a property, and I don’t make it back in time to the meter to feed it. 

Thursday though - Thursday was different.  Thursday, while I was at West Portal grabbing some lunch at Fuji Restaurant, I set on my eyes on this! 

I was so struck by this special parking meter that I quickly snapped up a pic to post on 

But I didn’t have time to call the magic number to find out about the mysterious “Pay by Cell” message till much later in the day (well after I got a parking ticket while parked in Pacific Heights… grrrr.) 

When I finally got to call the magical number, its magical voice told me to visit for more information.  (It also told me that it recognized me as a new user and asked if I wanted a free use of the system – to which I yelled “hell yeah” but it didn’t hear me – so I think I’ll have to call back again to get information on the free use thing.) 

Once I visited, I tried to sign up for the service, until I realized that I don’t have my license plate number memorized, and that it was too damn windy for me to go outside and look at the plates on my car tonight. 

But I do plan on registering for the service tomorrow.  And I do plan on using it and seeing how it works.  And if this magical “Pay by Cell” thing isn’t new to you, and you happen to know all about it and have used it before, feel free to leave a comment here to let other readers know how you like it. 

And let me know whether you think it will help me to stop having to shell out big bucks for parking tickets every month at expired meters across the City. 

Oh, and until parking meters are able to wash my car for me while it’s parked, this probably is the first and last time a parking meter will ever excite me. 

Happy Friday!  May the meter fairy take good care of you!