Will parking meters soon go the way of the pay phone?

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Will parking meters soon go the way of the pay phone?

Parknews.biz led off this morning with that headline. We all know where pay phones went. But parking meters? Not so much

Consider the pay phone. It was what you used when you weren’t at home or at the office. There were convenient boxes on street corners that you could go into, close the door, insert you coin and make your call. Superman was happy to have so many changing rooms. Can you find one today? Where did they go?

Telephone companies realized that replacing and upgrading pay phones was a business downer. They had a full on replacement with the cellphone. Everyone, literally EVERYONE has one, or more. Why would I want to search for a pay phone when I have one in my pocket.

How about parking meters. Well….  Pay by phone companies tout their services, and frankly its  coming. But not as fast as any would hope. If 30% of the transactions (read that people who put money in the meters) are pay by phone, its a big number. What do the other 70% do.

Unfortunately the headline writer didn’t care much for reality, but simply was going for a hook to bring in readers. Oh, yes, in a decade or so, smart phones will replace most everything. But in the meantime, T2, IPS, Parkeon, Metric and the rest need not lose a lot of sleep.

The Pay by Phone companies need to come up with a way to cross city boundaries, like the phone company does.  If I want to pay by phone in LA, and then in Beverly Hills, and then in Santa Monica and then in Burbank (not that unusual in our fair metroplex) I really don’t want to use four different apps to do that. There are a number of phone companies, but I can call any phone hosted by any company.

Much to the chagrin of some pay by phone companies, in a number of countries in Eastern Europe, the telephone company handles these charges. It goes on your phone bill. No need to sign up with numerous apps.

I also might recommend that the pay by phone companies make it easier to sign up. Let’s say I go to park and want to pay by phone. I have not signed up yet.  Its a monstrous task to do so on you smart phone. Enter all that data and then a 15 digit number. Skip it.  Why not let a person park without an upfront charge for the first time, have them sign up on line at home, and then charge them when they sign up. If they don’t, their ticket stands and they have to pay it.

I would much rather complete a sign up process at my desk than when sitting in my car late for a meeting.

Pay by phone is coming. But its still a tad clunky. We are all not 14 year old computer nerds…Sometimes its nice just to go somewhere and put in a quarter or stick in your AMEX.

JVH

John Van Horn

John Van Horn

3 Responses

  1. Here in the UK phone parking started over 12 years ago and although we now have many thousands of locations after all this time, these systems are offered by companies not able or willing to provide and share a common central data bank to enable consumers to have one app or one common phone number and this continue to hold back their expansion.

    To make matters worst, we also have the situation that consumers not only having to pay for the phone call, but much worse, many of these phone parking providers just add a service charge on top of the parking to the consumer when the best business model would be to provide the service free and preferably at a lower charge per hour reflecting the lower cost to the operator. As a result, in many UK locations the phone parking penetration has stalled at between 10 and 20% and in theory this should not be the case.

    My prediction is that unless things change dramatically in the future and the service is provided on one account and number and at a lower cost than paying the machine, this will remain just one more option for some users for the foreseeable future. I am confident other type of technology mounted to vehicles will materialise in due course were people don’t have to phone to book and pay, a system that will allow you pre-book the most suitable parking to your destination, will detect when you arrive and depart and will automatically debit the payment from your account. I just hope when these user friendly systems arrive, they would have learn the lesson to make them simple and cheaper for users.
    Not really much to ask?

  2. It may be that the eventual answer is that apps that enable you to pay for one thing (parking) will go the way of the dinosaurs. If Apple Pay or Google Wallet had a “pay for parking” method and cities adopted it, we would be able to buy lunch, pay for parking and then drinks in the next city over, all from one app on our phones. The more we can pay for, parking transit, lunch, etc. with one app, the higher the chances are for wide adoption.

  3. I recall several years ago at a company management retreat telling the team that cash-less parking would be the norm very soon. Customers would either pay with a credit card or by phone. Operationally, this is the best method as each transaction has a paper-trail. Cash shrinkage is a non-issue as there is no cash to handle. Labor savings are an added bonus.

    The argument about a customer not having a phone or card was easily handled. Those people can park with the “other guys”, as there are too few customers to worry about in that position.

    Of course, things move at a glacial pace in our wold, but it appears that we are finally reaching the tipping point.

    Remember, it wasn’t so long ago that operators would accept credit cards….

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