A few months ago, I was visiting the city of Portland, Maine and parked along a street for an hour or so. The parking meters on that street were set a few feet away from the curb. Not seeing my alloted parking meter, I didn’t feed it a coin.
When I returned to my meter I saw a ticket affixed to my car’s windshield and began to grumble. But when I opened the ticket, I smiled. On the inside of the folded ticket I was told that if this was my first parking infraction, I wouldn’t be fined any money and didn’t have to do anything but to be more careful in the future.
This strikes me as a fine example of something small a city can do that delivers a big payoff. Sure, Portland lost an easy $15-$20. But if I were a habitual parking offender, it would get its money eventually. And instead of thinking of Portland (fairly or unfairly) as a sneaky city hiding its meters to squeeze a buck out of me, I ended up thinking of Portland as the kind of place that treats its citizens like human beings. I’ve developed a positive feeling that makes me more inclined to come back.
What does your favorite city or town do to make people feel more welcome, to make them feel more human, to make them feel like staying or coming back?