Pierre Robert

Rita drops coins into expired parking meters in Center City, circa 1985.

PPA meets MMR: it was quite the matchup back in the day. With the organization causing a stir after being named in Philadelphia Magazine’s Best of Philly list this year as “Best City Agency,” I thought we’d spotlight a character from MMR lore.

It’s no secret that I’ve had a few run-ins with the Philadelphia Parking Authority. It amazes me that in a city that’s had as many challenges as our great city of Philly, one of the most efficient, laser-like organizations is the PPA. They can catch you in seconds, give you a ticket, or in my case, a boot (or a tow) and be on their way so fast, it’ll make your head spin!

I’ve had these challenges with the parking authority since I first arrived in this town. I never paid my parking tickets on the original Minerva, my VW van, and they towed her away and sold her for scrap. It was a very sad day for me. My next vehicle, the “cosmic glider,” also ran up several parking tickets.

Pierre Robert poses with a later version of Minerva

Pierre Robert poses with a later version of Minerva in front of the art museum

So, in the mid 80s, we came up with an idea to counter the frustrations that many Philadelphians (myself included) were experiencing. I used to say on the radio that it would be cool to “drop a quarter in the meter of a friend you haven’t met yet”. It was my ongoing campaign to save people from parking tickets by having citizens help out other citizens, dropping their spare change in the meter to save them from a ticket. Then, inspired by a certain Beatles song, we thought: “What if we got our very own Rita Meter Maid?”

 

For couple of summers in the mid-80s, we hired different women to dress up like meter maids and run around Center City putting money in expired parking meters. We would also put our own fake ticket on the windshield, which basically said, “You were saved from a ticket by WMMR’s Rita Meter Maid”. They became experts at dodging PPA officers and feeding the meters. It was a small victory, attempting to save people the agony of parking tickets, and it’s one of my favorite memories of my time here at MMR!

Our friend Bill Cain followed “Rita” around on several occasions and snapped the photos below. Long live Rita Meter Maid!

-Pierre Robert

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