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The Vancouver Sun has written an article about the the first meter maids in the City of Vancouver. And they were “maids”-all female. One of the nicest people at the City of Vancouver who went on to have a fruitful career in the planning department started as a meter maid. And Branca Verde, who is delightful and a very good judge of character is also persuasive and very good at collaborative problem solving. I am sure those are all skills honed as one of the meter maids hired to check those parking regulations.

Parking meters were installed in the City of Vancouver in 1976, and became a major source of revenue for the City of Vancouver. While the City does not like to say, the monthly return of parking meters can be very lucrative. Think of it-the city is  renting by the minute road space the city owns, and other than collecting the coins and regulating the space, it is a very nice cash cow. In fact in 2011 revenues from Vancouver meters were approximately 40 million dollars. 

In this article, Branca does reveal a few secrets of checking on parking. Downtown office workers would try to trick them.“People would park all day and re-meter,” Verde said. “The whole intent was to have a turnover for small business and their customers, not for someone to park all day.“We started putting a Smartie on top of the tire under the wheel well. They’d run out and rub out the chalk we’d marked their tire with and think they’d fooled us, but we’d find the Smartie still there.“It was pretty high-tech stuff.”

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Today parking officers enforce a lot more bylaws than back then, including anti-idling, leaf cleaning and lawn watering during bans. And there are 9,900 meters today, more than triple the number back then.Today’s average meter rate is $2.23 an hour; in 1976 hourly rates were 10, 20 and 40 cents.Vancouver’s 104 parking officers wrote 377,324 tickets in 2015 (a figure for 1976 is not available).And they no longer appear in court, they record everything digitally.

With driverless technology, metering and enforcement could become a thing of the past. It was people like Branca that pioneered a truly 20th century vocation, and adapted a new use for candy Smarties as one of the tools of the trade.

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