This is a very delicate topic, so I have just put on my kid gloves. Here’s a story The inference is that Pay and Display machines are more convenient than single space meters. It is also inferred that the P and D are complicated but new signage is solving that problem. One person interviewed liked the new devices, one didn’t. And there you have a complete discussion by a college newspaper.
Here’s what I think – Any device that requires a complex set of instructions doesn’t really work well in the public environment. People don’t want to, or frankly can’t read instructions. Computer based machines should be designed so people can walk up and figure them out with a minimum of prior knowledge.
It is usually the case that machines become more complex because they do more than the task for which they are designed. A case in point – the check in machines at the airport. Not only can you check in, you can change flights, enter number of bags, search for other flights, change seats, and soon order food and beverages. The more choices, the more difficult it is to understand how to use the machine.
But there is another, and I think more pressing issue – that of readability. Low power LED or LCD displays are extremely difficult to read outside. Period. This is particularly true of those of us near sighted souls who can’t read well anyway. There are machines on the streets near my home that are inoperable during certain hours of the day when the sun is at a certain angle. I understand the problem – bright, clear displays mean shorter battery life. I believe most every machine has this problem, even those connected to mains power – ATM’s in certain areas, Parking devices, Outdoor check in kiosks at airports, Self Service gas pumps, and using cell phones outside in bright sunlight, etc. It’s like their designers never used the machines in real life.
Let’s get back to convenience – If we want to tell the truth, fee collection can be listed in order of convenience:
- In Car Meters – that can be charged from the internet, – after you get the meter from the city
- Pay by Cell Phone – after you have set up the system and assuming you have a cell phone
- Single Space Meters – as long as the rates are under a buck an hour or you can pay by credit cards
- Pay by Space machines – as long as the spaces are clearly marked
- Pay and Display – Sorry, but having to walk back to the car puts you at the bottom of the list.
Of course if you add in street sensors, you can reorder the list. And cost, ease of enforcment and data collection may make the list entirely different.
There are problems with each of these that might move the technology up or down the list depending on circumstances. For instance – P and D could be easier to enforce than say pay by cell – the officer can instantly see the violation. Single space meters do require officers to go around and check, but it’s easy to see a validation –
If you goal is to get all that “stuff” off the sidewalk, then In car, pay by cell, and Pay by space certainly lead the pack, however does pay by space work where it snows? How do you mark the space – with little posts and numbers? If you do, then you are putting “stuff” right back on the sidewalk.
Every one of these technologies has tradeoffs. It’s up to individual cities to make the decisions as to what best fits their culture and enforcement issues. For instance – if you are a city with a lot of sidewalk cafes and bistros, then maybe you need “stuff” off the sidewalks.
However in my mind it all goes back to two things – are the critters easy to use and can you see the displays in bright sunlight. Every other issue pales in insignificance.
I welcome any manufacturer to discuss their product here and I will be happy to discuss this off line and eat my words if necessary on line.