One reason the meters help chase off franeleros is that Operadora de Estacionamientos Bicentenario, S.A. de C.V., the company operating the machines, has a financial incentive to summon police when anyone tries to block off a parking space without paying.
Prior to the arrival of meters in Polanco, franeleros charged 20 to 40 pesos for a day of parking. Current meter fees are 8 pesos (65 cents) an hour, or about 64 pesos ($5) a day, a sum that adds up for those who work in the area. For residents without their own parking spots, the city will issue one permit per home exempting a single car from paying the meter fee.
Crowley said meters have pushed people to find other modes of transportation to Polanco. "Before we had 10,800 cars coming into the district each day. We have cut that to 5,400," he said. Some of those drivers simply started parking in nearby neighborhoods, which have seen an increase in traffic. So authorities have begun installing parking meters there as well.
Officials also play up security in pushing the parking meters. Posters plastered throughout Condesa warn that franeleros could be used by criminals because they spend entire days on the same streets, learning the habits of residents.
"They can be very aggressive and that's always uncomfortable," said Maria Antonieta Cendejas, 67, who owns a convenience store in Condesa near Parque Mexico, where franeleros have taken over her street. "I used to remove their buckets but then they started placing concrete blocks and I couldn't move them."
Opponents of meters say authorities should focus on better planning and stop allowing restaurants, bars and office buildings that don't provide parking.
"The main problem is not the franeleros but all the businesses that have opened up and have no parking," said Antonia Romero, 67, who has lived by Parque Mexico for 35 years. "We used to have parking lots, but they have been replaced them with apartment buildings."
Luis Hernandez used to earn a living by selling candy and potato chips at a street stand near Condesa, but he said officials closed it down because he didn't have a permit. So he began working as a franelero along Parque Mexico.
"The government will leave a lot of people without anything to eat," said Hernandez, 31. "I'm really mad about all of this because all we want to do is work."
He said that if parking meters are installed in Condesa, he will work running errands for people.
"What else could I do?" he said.