Every once in a while I get hit by a bolt of lighting; an idea so incredibly luminous that I have to raise my hand to shield my eyes from the pure white light of its brilliance.

“Parking meters!” I called out to Maggie as we were finishing up some gardening. She looked at my grinning face and shook her head. “What now?” she muttered to herself as she put away her tools and headed for the back door.

“I’ve just been hit…” I started to say, but was interupted as she finished the sentence with a practiced drone of a tour guide in a national monument “… by a bolt from the blue, an idea so stupendous that it will change the course of human history.” And then she walked away. That’s when I know I’ve got her intrigued and she is just waiting for me to explain.

I macheted my way out of the winter squash patch. “It’s quite simple. We need parking meters at the school.”

Hawthorne Elementary, like all schools has a problem with too many cars dropping off children. Some mornings it is a regular traffic jam, and it certainly isn’t safe for the children that do walk. Way to Go! Regional Coordinator Sandra Jones has done an amazing job addressing the problem, with Walk to School days, safe walking maps and awareness programs, but despite her efforts, the problem remains.

Parking meters on school grounds, and on the streets adjacent to schools would solve not one, but four problems.

First, they would assuage people’s guilt about driving their children to school. Everyone agrees that walking is the healthiest alternative for parents and children, but some mornings it’s just hard not to get into that car, isn’t it? Drop a loonie in the meter, and poof, your guilt about driving vanishes!

Secondly, the money from the meters could be used to fund school activities. There isn’t a school in Canada that doesn’t look for extra ways of raising money. To make it even better, maybe part of the money raised could be used to help fund a sister school in Africa or Tibet - places with real school budget shortfalls.

Thirdly, it would encourage bicycling and walking. At least among those of us who take our Scottish heritage seriously. Even though its my idea, I know I would be hard pressed to put a loonie in the meter. Bicycling is a great way of getting around and running short errands.  They are, in fact, the most energy efficient form of transportation on the planet. A person on a bicycle expends less energy per pound per kilometer than any other machine or animal. Walking requires three times more energy! Combine a standard bicycle with a Kuwahara Tag-A-Long from Tony Dales at the Ladner Outdoor Store, or an Adams Trail-A-Bike from Ron Sanderson at the Delta Bike Co. in Tsawwassen, and you have an efficient way of moving you and a youngster around town. Add a good sized basket and a comfy seat, and there is no reason not to take your bike for most of your local errands.

And Fourthly, and perhaps most significantly, it would lower the total amount of pollutants in the air. The first 5 miles that a car travels are the most polluting. In fact over 60% of the total pollution generated by automobiles happens in the first few minutes. The reason? When an automobile starts, the system injects ten times the fuel required as a failsafe to ensure ignition. The unburned or incompletely burned fuel blows by the catalytic converter because the converter isn’t hot enough yet to be effective. The result? In trips of 2 miles or less, the pollution released from a car is 100% higher per mile than the same car after it is hot. Multiply that by the thousand of Moms and Dads that drive their children the short distance to school, and it’s easy to see how our air pollution accumulates. So let’s see. School parking meters would: Raise money for a good cause, increase parents and children’s health, lower pollution, and make Delta a better place. Brilliant. My work here is done.

Parking Meter Solution