They Have My Credit Card, Why do I have to go back to ‘feed the meter?’


They Have My Credit Card, Why do I have to go back to ‘feed the meter?’

A friend visited San Luis Obispo this past weekend. He decided to have lunch on a wide boulevard where there were a number of restaurants. He used a meter that took credit cards and put an hour and a half on the meter. Service was slow and therein turns the tale.

As my friend felt the pressure of the meter pushing down on him, he left his lunch and walked a block to the meter and added more time. He was furious with the service at the restaurant and also at the city because he had to go back and pay more.

“They have my credit card number, why can’t they just add more time on if need be. Why should I have to stop what I’m doing and go put more in the meter?”  Why indeed.

I asked my friend how the meter was to know he was still there. “Sensors” he said. Or “Why not just keep adding on time til I return and tell the meter that I’m leaving.” I noted that if he forget to ‘tell the meter’ he could get a pretty large bill on his credit card.  He just stuck out his tongue and left.

We upgrade the technology. But we keep the same rules we had with meters that took pennies, dimes and quarters. It really doesn’t make a lot of sense.

As I have noted before, disruptors are sneaking through our industry, poking here and pulling there. Pay by cell will replace meters. Why not get a jump on them.

What if there were no citations. Or rather the citation was built into the fee structure.  For instance. $1 for the first half hour, $1.50 for the second, $3 for the second hour, and if you wanted turnover, $25 for the third, and $50 for the 4th.

Since you have the credit card on file, just charge the appropriate fee. I’m guessing this is against the rules, but does it have to be?

In essence you are penalizing someone for parking longer than two hours, but if they are willing to pay, why not?  And your enforcement staff only checks to see if the meter is running, and can focus on non meter related fines like red zones, fire hydrants, too close to the corner — all which are more important concerns than overstaying a meter.

Yes, you would need a sensor to know when the car was moved. But those exist. Dynamic pricing could kick in while the cars were on site. There are bugs to work out, but it would work.

And my friend would not be upset with the city of San Luis Obisbo.  I”m sure SLO parking would prefer he direct all his anger at slow service at the restaurant.




Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

2 Responses

  1. It is against PCI rules to store any personal information which includes their credit card number, right?

  2. John: remember credit card security rules, the meter system does not have the credit card number after the initial transaction because it is not stored in their system.


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