Most of us spend a good part of our lives feeding money into parking meters, but MeterMessages Inc. of Los Angeles has discovered how to get money out of parking meters -- by turning them into miniature billboards. The company leases space on parking meters from municipalities, then sells it to advertisers. For an additional fee, it will also produce and install the stick-on ads.

MeterMessages currently has leasing agreements with 11 cities, from Rockville Centre, N.Y., to Hermosa Beach, Calif. To date its most impressive conquest has been St Louis, where it has leased about 8,585 parking meters for three years. The company pays the city $26.40 per year for each meter and charges advertisers $12.25 per month for the space. Ten percent of the meters are reserved for public-service announcements. If MeterMessages manages to sell all of the remaining space, it stands to pocket more than $1 million from the St. Louis operation alone -- which can buy an awful lot of parking time.