Money in Flames: Parking Edition


I’m thinking of starting a series here called How to Set Money On Fire.  Maybe I will. Because, sometimes — regrettably — my husband and I are better at this than we should be.

Don’t get me wrong.  We don’t look to waste money.  Nor are we sitting on a gold mine where these things go unnoticed.  It’s just that, at times, it would probably be faster to light money on fire than to go through the headache of how it was put to waste.  Like taking a three year-old to Disney World who only wants to ride the {free} monorail around the perimeter of the property — after we’ve already paid in limbs for park admission.

That kind of stuff.

And we have today’s example:  Commuter Parking.

You may remember past references I’ve made to the absurd wait lists here in my town.  Namely, for the town pool and for commuter parking at the train station.

We’ve conquered the pool wait list, thanks to my craftiness.  Now, the parking.

This issue directly impacts my husband, not me.  And I would be more passionate about it if I still commuted.  But, six months out, that morning routine is still fresh enough in my memory that I can offer full empathetic rage to P about where he can park his car for the privilege of boarding NJ Transit.

Here are the facts:

1)  We have been on the wait list for 18 months to get a permit for the commuter lot.  A resident permit.  In the town where we live and pay taxes.

2)  Without said permit, there are several equally unattractive options:

–Walk the mile each way from our home to the station.  Which sounds all noble/peaceful/eco-friendly/pick your adjective here.  But the truth is that we are not people who allow enough time for this in the morning.  We know our limits.  It would be a disaster.

–Arrive at the station early enough to purchase a $5 non-permit spot from a police officer who sits there every morning for this purpose.  Sounds easy enough, right?

No. Here’s why.

It’s a secret as to exactly how many spots the officer will sell each day — depending, he says, on factors like snow or construction.  Or, it seems, the mood of his sergeant — based on whether or not he had chicken pot pie the night before.  It’s that random.  One morning, 50 spots for sale.  The next, 15.  You have to factor in other variables like rain (fewer people walk, spots go quickly), day of the week (easier on Fridays, crazy on Mondays) and time of year (winter is harder than summer).  And the only way to know if the officer has anything left is if his lights are flashing (that means sold out).  Of course, you can’t see this until you’ve already sped at an illegally fast pace pulled into the lot and passed up your next option, which is the following.

–Pay $5 to park at the gas station up the street.  The one that’s between home and the train station — and to which P must backtrack after seeing the unfortunate Sold Out lights on the officer’s car.  Then you basically leave your keys with a random gas attendant, throw him $5 and sprint for the train, while waving nicely at the officer with the Sold Out lights so that he might cut you a break someday when you forget to feed the meter at Starbucks.  Hypothetically, of course.

It’s an awesome way to start the day.  Totally not stressful.

So you can imagine my husband’s joy when he received a call last week that the town had a spot available for him.

At the secondary lot.

The secondary lot?


You have to go through Parking Purgatory to get to Parking Heaven in our town.  And we’re told we should expect to spend another four to five years waiting in purgatory.

Here’s the best part:  The secondary lot is way further away than the gas station option.  And obviously further away than paying the parking cop at the train station.

There is absolutely nothing beneficial about this.  So we’ll just pass on this lot and wait for our name to come up for the main lot.  OK?

NO.  Not OK.  Presumably, the same municipal maniacs who preside over the town pool nonsense have also stated that we must take the purgatory spot to stay on the list for the main lot.

And herein lies the setting of the money on fire.

Because, again — knowing how we are and how close we cut things — the likelihood is pretty slim that my husband is going to get to the purgatory lot in time to walk over and make his train.  Especially once winter comes.  He will very likely just pull into the train station, pray that the Sold Out lights aren’t flashing on the cop car and make it easy on himself.  And I can’t blame him.  Even with that shiny new purgatory lot permit sticker in the window.

So.  We’ll be paying for the purgatory lot, which we now view as a Waiting Fee, while P also spends $5/day either with the cop or the random gas station dude.

Money.  On fire.

We’re not proud of it, but it’s the ugly truth.

Maybe he should reconsider walking.

And if you guys have any tales of Money in Flames, now would be a good time to throw them out there — just so I feel a little better.

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  1. Markus says:

    OK – call me crazy – but another option may exist. You purchase whatever building happens to be next to the train station. You then tear this building down. You pave the lot, hopefully creating 51 parking places. You then charge $8.00 per day for commuters to park there (at that point, if they see the flashing lights indicating no room at the inn next door, they’ll gladly pay $10, but why gouge them?). Mind you, the prime governor’s parking spot will be reserved for P.

    On a monthly basis, you can expect an inflow of $8,000.00 (20 business days, 50 spots, simple math).

    If the building you purchased costs $2,000,000.00 (including costs to demo and repave), and if you put 25% down, then your monthly “mortgage” payment would only be $8,052.32 (based upon a 5% jumbo). That means you parking only cost you $2.62 per day! And in 30 years you’ll truly have money to burn!!!

    (Aside from the $500,000.00 up front costs it took to make this happen).

  2. Erinn says:

    Why don’t you drop him off and pick him up at the station? Unless he’s leaving at like 5:00 am or something radical — little ones are usually up early anyway. Y

    Yes, I know. This will not make life easier for you, but it would be a funny slice of time spent together each morning and evening, and who doesn’t like door-to-door service within at least a segment of their commute?

    • fordeville says:

      You are way nicer than I am. Either that, or you are suffering from amnesia of what it’s like to get small children out the door on a schedule 😉
      Even if I wanted to, the logistics would be tough. He gets home at totally different times every night — and not infrequently after the kids are in bed. So, alas, we are back to money in flames.

  3. Karlyn says:

    Kevin and I just had a good laugh over this, he entered purgatory about 4 months ago…thanks for the laugh, love the blog!

    • fordeville says:

      Thanks Karlyn! If your family is ahead of ours on the Get Out of Purgatory List, we may have a duel on our hands 😉

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