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Random Illustrations: Pay-by-Phone parking

I first mentioned the phone-enabled parking charge payments in this article several months ago. Recently, while visiting friends in northwest London, I came across an entire area where all of the parking meters have been converted into the pay-by-phone operation.

I suppose in this day and age everyone – and their grandmother – has a mobile phone on them. And if someone who needs to park on that street does not, I’m sure that getting a parking ticket will provide enough of an incentive to get a mobile, if only for parking convenience. Mobile operators benefit too, to say nothing of drivers with no spare change in their pockets.


  1. Vince

    Yes, I can see where the convenience comes in. But suppose you forget your cell phone. Or don’t have one – a lot of people don’t. Or don’t have a credit card – many people don’t (after a lot of years of not having one, I have two, under protest, simply because there are a few things that are just easier or necessary that way.)

    As an option, I heartily approve. As the only option – no. Forcing someone to have a cell phone and a credit card to park, and pay for the convenience on top of it, ain’t right.

  2. jason

    I agree with Vince… making this the only option is wrong. The government or the tech vendors or a coalition of both has simply decided “the future is here” (no doubt because their own self-interests, i.e., greater efficiency, cost savings, etc., rather than a perceived public desire) and now everyone has to get on board regardless of whether they want to or are ready to.

    Even though it’s not exactly the same situation, I have similar feelings about the upcoming changeover to all-digital TV broadcasts here in the US. Basically, I tend to be a late adopter and I resent big forces deciding things for me… šŸ™‚

  3. Ilya

    Uhm, sorry, guys, but how the erstwhile – and possibly still in use – requirement to feed quarters into a parking meter on a street in New York City was any different as far as being the only option? You don’t have quarters – you look for other parking accommodations, that was the choice. In the pay-by-phone scheme, replace “quarters” with “mobile”, and you have the same scenario.

    I don’t disagree with your sentiment, I just do not believe that it makes the situation worse than before. Let’s look at Vince’s “what ifs”.

    You don’t own a cell phone. As recent as a couple of years ago, European rate of adoption of mobiles outpaced that in America by light years. In 2006, 79% of UK households owned a mobile, and very recently there has been news that UK has 121 mobiles per 100 people. I am pretty sure that if you are a driver, you certainly have one.

    You don’t have a credit card. It’s possible that in the recent years of cheap credit, a person could get a car purchase financed without any credit history to his name. But I have no doubt that vast majority of car owners do not pay full car price in cash and rely on their credit histories, supported by years of credit card use, to finance their car purchases. In other words, a person who does not own a car can conceivably not have a single credit card; I cannot imagine that to be true for any car-owner.

    You forgot your phone at home. See the quarter example above. Look to park either somewhere where it’s free or in a garage with a pay machine.

    I have no doubt that, the way Britain normally does these things, a statistical analysis was performed before that pay-by-phone scheme came into existence, and that analysis showed that the vast majority of people would not be unduly inconvenienced by the switch. And many of them, such as myself, have been inconvenienced in the past by never having the needed amount of change in their pockets. So, if I had to regularly park in the street in that area, things would only get better for me now. Leaving the coin option in place would probably defeat some budgetary save that the new scheme brings about…

    Oh, and I am pretty sure that this is not exactly the same as the “convenience” service that I described in May. I’d be very much surprised if there was a convenience surcharge added to the cost of parking when no other choice exists.

  4. jason

    Good point about the lack of quarters… I hadn’t considered that. And I was unaware that there was such a big disparity in mobile phone ownership between the UK and US.

    As I said, I tend to be a late adopter anyway, and even though I have a cell, I’m not at all comfortable with all the ancillary functions that are beginning to creep into them. I tend to think of phones as phones, not as music players, web browsers, legal tender, etc. And that in turn tends to make me somewhat reactionary when I hear about changes like this. šŸ™‚

  5. Ilya

    My biggest problem with the pay-by-phone is solely in the fact that I do not get any visual (remaining time on the meter) or physical (paid-up receipt on the dashboard) evidence that my parking charge has been paid. I have to put my trust instead in the notion that the technology behind all of this, including automated phone lines and the hand-held device that a parking inspector uses to connect to the service and validate my payment, works without a hitch.

    I am usually a late adopter precisely because I do not trust new technology to work without a hitch straight out of the box. But since I already have a little experience with this particular method of paying, I am not as reluctant to adopt it as I normally would.

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