With the Courts Making Parking Enforcement More Complicated North Dakota Needs to Legalize Meters


A plaque dedicating the parking meter to Howard Henry that was donated from the city of Minot. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)

A Michigan woman by the name of Alison Taylor, fed up with getting parking tickets, decided to make a federal case out of it.


She objected to the chalking of her tires by law enforcement. This is a common practice for parking law enforcers. They put a chalk mark on your tire in order to measure when you last moved your car. Taylor argued this was an unconstitutional search, and the 6th Circuit just agreed with her. In Taylor v. City of Saginaw the court held that an agent of the government making contact with private property constituted common law trespass. From there they conclude that, because the contact was part of an effort to obtain information, this constituted a search of the sort that requires a warrant.

Orin Kerr has a for more in-depth analysis of the ruling, and what it means for parking enforcement across the country (it’s controlling in the 6th Circuit, and other jurisdictions may side with it as well), but to bring this issue home to North Dakota, this means it’s time for our state to embrace parking meters.

This ruling, if it stands, doesn’t make unmetered parking enforcement impossible. Per the courts, where the cops crossed the line was in making physical contact with the vehicle. If law enforcement merely took pictures of the cars – very easy to do in this age of cheap digital photography – they could presumably get around the issue.

Though that, in turn, creates other privacy concerns. What happens when the cops start keeping all those pictures in a database logged with times, dates, and locations? In the aggregate they could create a pretty nifty tool for tracking where your vehicle has been. Something law enforcement across the country is already doing with traffic cameras and license plate scanners.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Opponents of parking meters will complain about the cost of parking going up. That’s short sighted, because the cost of providing basic services to communities which gobble up more and more square miles is even higher.[/mks_pullquote]

That’s an issue for another post.

When it comes to parking, wouldn’t it be easier to simply allow parking meters?

They’re currently illegal in North Dakota, thanks to a cranky farmer who got fed up with the tickets he was getting in Minot in the 1940’s, and recent legislative efforts to roll back the ban have failed. Governor Doug Burgum is a proponent of parking meters, and he teamed with state Senator Jessica Unruh (R-Beulah) to back a bill in the 2017 session to end the ban, but it ultimately failed.

There was no similar legislation introduced in the 2019 session. Which is a shame.

Burgum and others in our state have made a big push toward denser development in our communities. Currently we tend to do a lot of new development on the edges of our communities. That leads to sprawl, and in turn sprawl leads to higher taxes because all that new territory means more miles of road to plow and maintain. More square miles which need fire and police protection. Garbage pickup. Sewer and water service.

There are a lot of reasons why that sprawl happens, but one challenge of denser development is parking.

Parking meters can help address that.

We’ve come a long way from the coin-operated meters of past generations. New iterations of parking meters are a lot easier to use, and they can be programmed to maximize parking availability. When demand for parking is high, prices can go up. When demand is low, prices can go down.

Services like Uber use congestion pricing to ensure availability even during peak periods of demand. What it means for parking is more spaces available for everyone.

That can be a boon for local businesses. In Seattle, when metered parking was implemented, commerce for businesses in those congested areas increased.

Opponents of parking meters will complain about the cost of parking going up.

That’s short sighted, because the cost of providing basic services to communities which gobble up more and more square miles is even higher.

Parking meters may not be right for every community in North Dakota, but it should be a tool in the tool box for local governments.