Focus on Pay by Space - Now Customers Can 'Park and Smile'
By Patrick Ryan
Face it. Most people simply don't like to pay for parking -- and when they do pay, it's grudgingly. Worse still, if they get a citation for not paying, you'd think that the world had come to an end.
Years ago when Pay-by-Space meters were introduced, authorities mainly used them to enhance their streetscapes, replacing many single-space meters with just one machine. While the latest units are still highly visually appealing and continue to dramatically reduce urban clutter, incredible technological advances now enable cities to use Pay-by-Space meters to make the parking experience a whole lot less frustrating (and dare we say even enjoyable) for the motorist.
OK, so there's still the visual appeal aspect. Motorists (as well as transit passengers and pedestrians) simply prefer to visit a city that is clean, organized and well laid out. They'll also stay and shop longer in a user-friendly city. The recent shift to urban beautification in most U.S. cities bears testament to that. Today's Pay-by-Space meters are compact, friendly looking and non-intimidating. Because every Pay-by-Space meter replaces an average of six regular meters, gone is the "steel picket fence" of old.
And despite what we may think, most motorists don't wish for the meter to be broken. In fact, when most motorists park at a broken meter, not being able to pay 25 cents or $1, means they risk a $10 to $50 ticket -- and they'd rather not take that chance.
Today's Pay-by-Space meters feature cellular communications, allowing them to report vandalism or faults in real time to a central computer. Members of the city's maintenance staff don't have to spend their days randomly inspecting hundreds or thousands of meters, but can attend only to actual problems on a greatly reduced number of machines. Targeted maintenance increases "uptime," ensuring that meters are more likely to be working when a motorist tries to pay.
Pay by Space meters use the latest technology to ensure that technicians manage the repair easily, with as little time as possible spent with the meter out of action. Technologies like industry-standard Smart Media removable memory enable the machine's complete setup, including the rates, tariffs and even the time remaining on the spaces to be switched out in seconds, without the need for reprogramming. On some machines, technicians can even exchange programming changes and maintenance data via infrared using an industry-standard Pocket PC PDA.
Another customer gripe is having to carry too much change. Unlike regular meters, Pay-by-Space meters are powerful enough to support a variety of payment options. The newest Pay-by-Space meters feature "combi" magnetic stripe/chip card readers, so they can accept both regular credit cards and smart cards. And these "combi" card readers allow motorists to hold onto their credit cards through the entire transaction, so that there is no risk of losing a valuable credit card over a small transaction.
Some Pay-by-Space machines also feature an option for contactless cards, where motorists only need wave their wallets in front of the machine to begin the transaction. Machines with several payment options are also less likely to be out of order, with each payment method providing back up if the other is vandalized.
Motorists also appreciate a city that respects the environment. Digital technology allows Pay-by-Space meters to manage several spaces without the need to print a ticket, saving thousands of pounds of paper every year in every city. With no printer, guillotine, complex print mechanisms or paper rolls to change, the machines maintenance is reduced. Solar power options on some Pay-by-Space meters allow the machines to operate for years without changing batteries.
Despite Pay-by-Space meters being available with all these high-tech options, they remain extremely cost effective, so cities can place them conveniently enough that motorists need only walk a few steps. For most motorists, often the greatest contact that they have with their city is when they pay at a parking meter.
While many motorists might not consider paying for parking enjoyable, modern Pay-by-Space technology enables cities to take a lot of the frustration out of the motorist's parking experience. So what is there to look forward to make a motorist's experience actually enjoyable? Later in the year, look for Pay-by-Space meters that can be paid by cell phone.
Patrick Ryan is the U.S. director for Reino Parking Systems. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Article Abstract from April, 2002