“But the death of the classic meter also means an end to some of New York’s smaller pleasures: the satisfying clunk of a coin in its slot, the illicit thrill of finding an extra few minutes still counting down.”

September 19th, 2011

Even the Times can be nostalgic and sad about eliminating parking meters. I don’t share such nostalgia.

“We’re losing the driver’s version of a lottery ticket,” said Samuel I. Schwartz, a former city traffic engineer and transportation commissioner.

“Pulling up to a single-space meter and discovering there was 30 minutes on it from the previous owner — what a joy that was! Even if it was only saving you a dime, somehow it made my day.”

Nostalgists will have a chance to buy a meter of their own: The city plans to auction off thousands of decommissioned meters sometime next year.

But at the Transportation Department’s repair shop in Maspeth, Queens, where meter surgery is still performed with butter knives and nail files, mechanics are bracing for an era’s end. Stephen Kerney, the shop supervisor, wondered about his team’s fate as he surveyed shelves and tables filled with hundreds of discarded meter innards.

“At one time,” he said, “we were the largest shop in the world.”

Some of the meter shop mechanics will be retrained or reassigned, city officials said.

Machines that require less maintenance requiring machines that require maintenance! What is a Luddite to do?

Even thieves will lose their jobs!

One group that may be disappointed by the turnover: thieves, to whom the meters have proved an irresistible target for decades.

Mr. Schwartz, the former commissioner, recalled that mechanics working for the city would install paper cups to collect a dollar or so in coins from each of the hundreds of meters they repaired a day. To stem the problem, the city hired private agencies to collect the coins — only to discover that those workers also took an unauthorized cut.

As transportation commissioner, Mr. Schwartz was approached by so many salesmen hawking an ostensibly vandal-proof meter that he developed his own personal test.

“I kept a sledgehammer in my office,” he recalled. “Some of them wouldn’t even make it through the first swing.” (He was referring to the meters, not the salesmen.)

Just this month in Queens, police arrested a 48-year-old man who was using seven handmade keys to break into meters; he was carrying a brown bag with $62 in quarters.