Central Parking

The domain may be a ‘jewel in Ashurton’s crown’, but recently it’s been another kind of ‘park’ that’s been making headlines. Curbside credit is changing for good, with the iconic coin meters being replaced by newfangled pay and display machines that would look at home on any Auckland side street. Not only is Ashburton moving into the future, but this technological leap was broadcast into living rooms all over the country. Immediately following the TV segment I was fielding calls and texts from family and friends in the big smoke, all wanting to know more about how we park our vehicles in this neck of the woods.

My initial response was ‘without breaking the budget.’ When we first arrived in town we thought that the advertised rate of 60c an hour must have been a typo. Up in Auckland 60c might buy you 5 minutes if you are lucky, so surely there was a digit and a decimal point missing? $7.60 would have seemed like a bargain, so we fed the meter up with gold coins, just in case.  As it turned out, our trepidation was unfounded and resulted in a happy surprise for the rest of the cars that pulled into the park that day.

The introduction of solar powered, ticket printing machines spells the end of random acts of kindness like this, as there is no way to top up someone’s time allowance without breaking into their car to replace their receipt. Somehow that doesn’t seem quite as neighbourly as nonchalantly depositing spare shrapnel in the meter, and it also sounds like a lot more work.

It also sounds like a lot more work to get to a machine, with the one to one park to meter ratio now a thing of the past, but most will be placated by assurances that motorists will not have to walk any more than three parks away to get a ticket. Three parks seems to be the maximum distance away from one’s destination that the majority of Ashburtonians are willing to park anyway, as traffic volumes still allow convenience to reign supreme.  At any rate, there will be none of this business of trudging to the far corner of a parking building, only to lose your bearings and spend the next half hour looking for your vehicle, by which time the ticket has almost expired.

For those who prefer to stick to the old methods or are averse to the 40c price increase – and don’t mind walking – there is always the option of using the remaining quinquagenarian machines in the town’s side streets. With the old machines going towards bolstering the local supply of spare parts, they should keep going strong for a wee while yet. Who knows, the remaining antique machines could become quite an attraction – the only other place I’ve seen them is in the museum, next to a sign that reminisced about the ‘lovely Rita meter maids’ of days gone by.

The technological infrastructure may be changing, but Ashburton can still boast plenty of central parking – now with more options than ever before.

Originally Published in The Ashburton Guardian

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