Demanding a little change

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In this age of billions and trillions, when it almost seems like too much trouble to pick up a penny from the pavement, a lot of us wouldn’t mourn the loss of a nickel or dime.

But it bothered James Moriarty. Enough so that he did something about it.

About a year or so ago, Moriarty noticed an annoying feature of the newish, digital Park Cedar Rapids terminals now installed around the downtown area. Moriarty is an attorney with an office in the Armstrong Centre, so he is a downtown parker.

At that time, the terminals would ask patrons how much parking time they wanted. After that, you paid for the time with cash or plastic. Simple enough.

But Moriarty noticed that if you, say, dropped in four quarters for a then-90-cent hour of parking, Park Cedar Rapids kept the dime. No change. No extra time.

Moriarty referred to it as “forced tipping.”

“If I reached into your pocket and took a dime, it makes no difference that it’s just a dime,” Moriarty told me recently. “A dime here and a dime there, it’s the principle of the thing.”

So Moriarty complained to Park Cedar Rapids. He also informed them that he was prepared to file a class-action lawsuit on behalf of all nickled-and-dimed patrons.

Moriarty did quite a bit of research on the issue, including talking with people who used the system.

He asked Park Cedar Rapids how many “tips” it collected. Its best, rough estimate was about $4,000.

Park Cedar Rapids invited Moriarty to be part of a focus group on the new system. And in July, the parking authority reprogrammed its terminals. Now, cash-paying patrons are allotted full time for the money they drop in, much like traditional parking meters. You pay for time, you get time.

“We’re always open to feedback,” said Jon Rouse, general manager of Park Cedar Rapids. “We want feedback to make this thing successful.”

Time is also money for Moriarty, so he asked Park Cedar Rapids to pay him for his.

In October, he got a letter offering him $1,000 and asking him to share all his findings with the authority. They also requested that he sign a “confidential nondisclosure agreement.” So much for that.

And, as of Jan. 1, Rouse said parking rates went up. An hour is now a dollar. They always seem to get our dimes one way or the other.

But if more folks stood up for a little change, who knows?

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