...Or am I just the last goob on the face of the earth to find out about these things?
Cash keys for parking meters. Good for use in Urbana, Campus, and Champaign parking meters. You can own one for $17.50 through public works (see here for more details), and then choose how much of a cash balance to keep on it. (Not refillable via internet. Sorry folks, you have to go back to the parking offices when these run out of moolah!)
Champaign's New Parking Costs: Grumble, grumble. Although I can see that these new parking meters will bring in revenue for our fair city, I always found the inexpensive parking (25 cents/hr, free after 5:00 and on all weekends) to be charming, and a welcoming perk to hanging out downtown.
Most of the businesses there are those that invite you to stay for hours: coffee shops to study in, tons of outdoor cafes, bars to frequent, and a few fine dining establishments, to linger over fantastic dinners.
Alas, 75 cents an hour now, and a 2-hour time limit! Aurgh! 2 hours? That two-hour time limit has changed the message from "Welcome to downtown!" to "Welcome to downtown. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out."
One just has to bite the bullet and follow the rules. These cash keys are extremely convenient if you're a debit-card carrying down-townie such as myself. When the 75-cents/hour parking costs kicked in, the change in my ashtray mysteriously dwindled to nothing but pennies in the blink of an eye.
Clint picked one of these up for me, and I just lurrrrrrrve it. Poke it into the meter, it gives you a balance. Once more, and it subtracts a quarter from that balance, and puts 20 minutes on the clock.
It's much easier than hoarding quarters, but you still have to vamoose by 7 p.m., if you arrive downtown at 5.
Enjoy your dinner.