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London Removes Meters in Favor of Pay-by-Cellphone

“I felt this was parking history in the making. They were removing parking meters and not replacing them.”
Verrus Vice President Neil Podmore was describing the event last December when 400 single-head meters in London’s Westminster borough were removed and switched to pay-by-cellphone only.
“There was a real sense that this was the beginning of the end for mechanical meters,” Podmore said. “It was a sea change.”
“We’ve seen cities offering pay-by-cellphone technology as a payment option alongside pay-and-display/space or single-space meters,” he said. “But Westminster took that one small step for man, one big step for parking! If you want to park in these spaces, you must pay by cellphone.”
The system covers more than 2,000 parking spaces in the Soho and Kings Cross area of Central London. About 1,600 other spaces give parkers a choice of cellphone or pay-and-display.
The change came about as on-street pricing in the British capital was reaching $10 an hour and the city was losing more than $40,000 a week taken from meters that were simply torn out of the ground, loaded onto the backs of SUVs and driven away.
The conversion in many cities takes place as meters installed more than 2 decades ago are needing replacement. The decision must be made whether to pay $10,000 or $15,000 for a P-and-D machine or go with the much less expensive cellphone technology.
The U.K. cities of Birmingham, Salisbury, Cheltenham, Oxford and York are using the technology, with the latter having a special twist. York charges a different rate for low-emission vehicles, and parkers using a cellphone can indicate they are driving such vehicles and are charged a different rate. Enforcement officers are notified as to the type of vehicle so they can verify the charges are correct.
The company also has installed the system at the Chicago Metra park-and-ride stations, following Impark’s takeover of the management of these lots. The cost of parking is only $1 a day, but as of this writing, 10% of the charges are being handled by the technology. It makes a lot of sense when you’re running to catch the train and can’t make it to the slot box.
National Car Parks in the U.K. has installed the system in the rail parking lots throughout the U.K. rail system. These are used as an alternative to the existing pay-and-display machines as are at most installations in the U.K. and North America.
The pay-by-cellphone system is just breaking into the U.S., with the Florida cities of West Palm Beach and Coral Gables leading the way. Municipalities are motivated to look to this technology for a number of reasons, one of which being the low cost to implement. Depending on the vendor, the cost to the city can be almost nil, with the expense being borne by the parker. In other cases, vendors receive a transaction fee or a percentage of the monies taken.

Article Abstract from March, 2007




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