Life in the So-called Space Age: Parking Meters

Pay by phone parking meters in Florida.

A couple of years ago I was visiting Florida on business and while on a particular lunch break, I parked my car and started to fish for some coins out of my pocket when I noticed that the parking meter I was standing in front of didn’t take coins. I looked at the meter closely and saw to my amazement that I could pay by cell phone! All I had to do was dial the number and arrange a payment. How cool is that?!

I don’t remember the details of the transaction exactly nor the exact city (was it Coral Gables or Boca Raton?). The first time I tried this parking system, I was given a “demo” period to try the system out. I also seem to recall that you needed to have an existing parking account with the city for this to work. My memory is hazy on all of this. I just remember how impressed I was that all I had to do was call it in.

I thought about New York City and wondered why this excellent technology wasn’t in place there or at any other large metropolitan city in the northeast. It would solve SO many problems and save SO much money for drivers. How many times have we been hit with a heavy fine for being minutes – even seconds – late to the meter? No longer would we have to frantically rush to the meter, just to plunk in some quarters and then repeat the process all over again. The meters in FL had a two hour maximum parking limit but in some locations in New York City, you’re free to park as long as you want (provided you keep feeding that meter of course).

Then I realized why this isn’t in place in New York: loss of revenue for the city. If everyone could simply dial in their parking payment, there would be virtually no tickets generated. Parking tickets are a huge cash cow in any large metropolitan city and I seriously doubt that the powers that be in City Hall will be rushing to get this implemented. This is a perfect example where government fails us and wants to suck us dry out of our hard-earned cash. It’s not enough that we pay exorbitant state and federal taxes but do we have to get shafted hard at the meter with outrageous fines? Let me not get on that rant. It’s simply easy money to keep the low-tech meters in place.

I noticed that many streets now are getting more and more muni-meters in place but this still isn’t as effective as the pay-by-phone method. Yes, you can pay by credit card and have the time clearly printed on the ticket it generates but you would still have to come back and add more time by physically being at the muni-meter and getting another ticket to display on your dashboard.

With near communication field (NFC) chips to be embedded into cell phones, allowing consumers to pay for goods and services by merely using their smartphones and making shopping so much easier (the jury is still out on that – personally I prefer my good ‘ol debit card), why can’t we have a system where simply calling to pay for our parking be a common thing?

If you live in a city where this is implemented, please chime in. How does it work exactly? We know the pros but are there any cons to this system? I would love to know the details of it.

Would LOVE to read your comments but please forgive me if I'm unable to respond at times...

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