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Nickel and Dimed

Six minutes costs a nickel. Twelve minutes costs a dime. At that rate — 1.2 minutes for every cent — it stands to reason that a quarter would buy you at least 30 minutes of parking, like most places in the city.

But that's not the case for two meters in the 1200 block of West Broad Street, where a quarter gives you only 15 minutes. Is this price gouging in the form of parking meters? In a 15-minute parking zone in front of the ABC store near Ukrop's Broad Street entrance, inflation runneth amok.

Consider: For 15 cents, parkers get 18 minutes. For 20 cents, 24 minutes. But 25 cents gets only 15 minutes. Every other meter in the city offers a better deal.

David J. Wall, a parking manager for the city, says the meters were adjusted to give ABC-store customers who may only have change in the form of quarters the ability to park legally. It's been a long-standing policy in Richmond, he says, to offer 15-minute parking in front of downtown ABC stores, of which there is now only one.

"That's the only liquor store in the downtown area," Wall says of the West Broad Street location. "The thinking was, if you needed fifteen minutes, you can put a dime and a nickel in the meter and keep on rolling. … Fifteen minutes for a quarter was another payment option just in case a person didn't have any other change."

Wall says he plans to change the 15-minute parking zone to two hours, and adjust the meters so that a quarter is again worth 30 minutes. He says a citywide effort is under way to update and put in new meters — there are 800 meters waiting in the wings.

"We'll be upgrading the whole parking-meter system for the city," he says, adding that new technology — including smart cards and digital readouts — are expected sometime in the near future.

Richmonders, however, should feel fortunate. "Richmond is probably one of the cheaper meter places when you compare other localities," Wall says. — Scott Bass

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