Wireless Data is at Risk at Parking Meters

An Austin, Texas woman says her credit card numbers were stolen after she used downtown parking meters, reports keyetv.com. The woman, Chelsea, who did not give her last name, says fraudulent charges were made on two of her cards. City officials examined the meters she used and said there was no sign of skimming.

However, it is possible to skim with a wireless device from nearby.

“They are wireless and they do transmit the data so when you put your card in, it needs to go through an authorization process, and I would imagine that some of that data that can be transferred electronically can be captured locally within a reasonable distance,” says Allan Bachman, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Education Manager.

I don’t like to be the voice of doom, but in this area, I will admit to serious doubts about the safety of credit and debit card information in just about every setting. I’ve had my card information stolen at least twice in my life. I use my cards with the full knowledge that they are not safe, but do so because I know the credit card company will reimburse me if fraudulent charges are made.

I’ve read that gas stations are hit most by card skimmers. When I buy gas, I use the card that comes with the best fraud policy and customer service – just in case.

At some point, credit card companies are going to lose too much money to continue this practice. They will either reimburse less, require insurance or limit use in a way that is more secure than current PCI standards. In the meantime, anybody designing meters might want to factor in some extra security measures.

Read the article here.

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Three posts from Parking Today on the Demise of the Parking Meter

Scroll down to see my blog, then comments from readers, then Paul chimes in.


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Meters Will Stand as Long as We Carry Cash

I couldn’t help add my two cents to the discussion about the end of the parking meter. All the technology for this transition is available, but a huge component in the parking process isn’t ready for the shift: the municipal government and the user.

According to global.handelsblatt.com, the end of cash is closer than the end of the meter. The website reports that Sweden is at the head of the cashless society movement in Europe, with well-known former-ABBA band member Björn Ulvaeus championing the cause by going an entire year without using cash. Just about the entire country is set up for cashless living.

“We prefer credit cards” is written in large letters on signs in many Swedish supermarkets. The Stockholm Public Transportation Company no longer accepts cash payments, and even newspapers or a few bread rolls can be paid for with debit or credit cards or by mobile phone. And parking meters were switched to a cashless payment system a few years ago.

Read the article here.

It would be easy to expect the fall of the parking meter in a place where pretty much everyone expects to pay electronically. But I think credit card capabilities will keep the meter from reaching obsolescence for a long time even if people stop using cash. It’s only when mobile phone payments become the norm that machinery for accepting parking payments can be eliminated all together.

In the United States, our emphasis on state and local governments will also lengthen the life of the parking meter. It might be easy to implement a country-wide parking policy in Sweden, but it won’t be simple here. I can see a state like California or New York going cashless years ahead of other states. While they are tearing out meters, places like Phoenix, Ariz. will still be installing them. They’re installing new meters in Phoenix just this month, reports downtowndevil.com.

The 180 parking meters were requested by both Roosevelt Row Merchants Association and the Evans-Churchill Neighborhood Association through their commissioned non-governmental parking committee.The 180 parking meters were requested by both Roosevelt Row Merchants Association and the Evans-Churchill Neighborhood Association through their commissioned non-governmental parking committee.

I’m not against a cashless society or mobile-phone payments, but I think it’s most realistic to expect these changes to come about when the Millenial generation reaches middle age. Those who are used to carrying cash will want to do so for many years to come. And they will all need to park and have a way to pay for their parking.

Read the article here.

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People Agree with Me…

I received a number of comments on my post yesterday about Pay by Cell. I thought I would bring them out of the ‘comments’ section and into the light of day.  JVH


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 materialize 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?


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.


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 world, 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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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.


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Medford, MA residents Prefer Meters to Kiosks

There’s no debating people like free parking better than paid parking. No polls need to be conducted, no questionnaires are required. People want free parking, but it’s not completely up to them. Their only leverage in the matter is their patronage. In Medford, Massachusetts, residents don’t want to pay for parking, but they must, and a year after the installation of parking kiosks in downtown areas, they’re still complaining, reports medford.wickedlocal.com.

Some local business owners have reported an increase in available parking has increased their sales; others say they are losing customers. Residents have a very specific complaint: they don’t like the kiosks.

“Standing in line behind somebody for 5 to 10 minutes [to pay] is just ridiculous,” resident Jaime Cheah said. “As a parent who doesn’t have a ton of time, you’re going to have to make it appealing for me to shop in Medford if you want to spend money in Medford. It doesn’t help that Assembly Row is five minutes away by car and has a plethora of free parking, and everything is right there.

It’s true, kiosks do get backed up. I’ve waited in line at kiosks, scratched my head trying to figure out how to use kiosks, faced the conundrum of the non-functioning kiosk, and played the not fun game of hide-and-seek with kiosks.

Still, I understand the economy of the kiosk – cheaper than 50 meters and less of an eyesore, too. But the feedback is worth taking into consideration.

Read the article here.

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Self Driving Cars — Not So Fast

The Parking Industry has been a tad panicked over driverless cars.  OMG –  Once they take over, there will be no need for onstreet parking, certainly much fewer off street spaces (With Lyft and Uber leading the way.) and who knows what other disasters are lurking around their software driven innards.

Stephen Hill, writing at the Observer, has given us a reality check. To wit:

Despite how much Uber CEO Travis Kalanick likes to crow about our “driverless future,” outside of The Jetsons this one is…not…happening…soon. Besides the remaining technological challenges, the liability and regulatory issues involved in letting a 3,000-pound death machine steer itself with no human at the controls are huge.

You can read the entire article here.

He goes on:

Not surprisingly, a survey by IEEE, a technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for humanity, of more than 200 experts in the field of autonomous vehicles found that of six possible roadblocks to the mass adoption of driverless vehicles, the three biggest obstacles are legal liability, policymakers and consumer acceptance. Cost, infrastructure and technology were seen as the least of the problems.  

Consider the questions the insurance companies must ask. In the event of an accident who is to blame? The vehicles owner? He wasn’t driving. The manufacturer?  The company that wrote the software? What company is going to take on that kind of risk? All it takes is a tiny software bug and BAM, you have bought the farm.

Consider the fact that when we drive we make thousands of little decisions each trip. Most are unconscious, but some brush up against the law, and even break it. What about driving over a double yellow line to go around a double parked UPS truck? How many times have you broken that little law and done so in perfect safety?

Who is going to accept responsibly for a self driving vehicle that was programmed to break the law? Is the car just going to sit there while UPS decides which package goes where? Let your mind wander.  There are tons of situations where we make perfectly reasonable decisions to break driving laws. Can a self driving vehicle do that?

Audi says totally self driving cars are 20-30 years away. Most predict that they will be most reliable on interstates and most likely be self driving semi’s.  I’m sure the Teamsters will have something to say about that.

The devil is in the details. And the details surrounding self driving vehicles go far beyond the technology issues. The press, Elon Musk, Google, Uber, and BMW may think they are on the cusp, but those pesky details will slow this giant leap for mankind


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A Super Super Bowl 50 (Not L but 50)

I am not a sports buff.  I watch one game a year and you know which one that is.  I love the opening ceremonies, the half time show (hoping for a wardrobe malfunction) and the commercials.  Oh the game is OK, too.

I was pleasant surprised  with Lady Gaga and her rendition of the national anthem. It was clean, expressive, and respectful. It certainly got the bad taste of Rosanne Barr out of my mouth. The national anthem is a battle song. It was written to be played by a brass with drums and cymbals. It is to be stirring, to bring visions of rockets and the fight for freedom. But I guess if you can’t have LA Philharmonic and 15,000 people singing along, Lady Gaga will do nicely.

Then there are the commercials.  I don’t think many stood out.  They were ok, but I’m not sure hit the peaks many have in the past, except one. And strangely enough, it was for the NFL.  It’s called Super Bowl Babies. Seems like the New York Blackout, the Superbowl spawns (to coin a phrase) a lot of snuggling afterwards. And nine months later, a plethora of babies.

These were the cutest kids, ages from three to their teens, and then adults whose parents watched the game in the sixties and seventies and then did what came natural. It was heartwarming to see them, staged on a mountaintop, in small groups, singing a song written just for them. Loved it.

I missed the Clydesdales, you just can’t beat a good horse commercial. Oh we got a glimpse, but Budweiser seems to have spent all its money on Helen Mirren who came as close to cursing as you can on public TV while impressing on us not to drink and drive.

The Halftime show. I really liked it. Beyonce didn’t overwhelm me, but then I wasn’t really listening too closely. Just watching her is enough. Coldplay…who is Coldplay?  But they sing and move well.  What I liked most was it seemed to harbor back to those half time shows we put on at UCLA when I was in the band.  We took up the entire field. Lots of music and moving. Smoke effects. Lights. and Beyonce got right down on the grass and did her thing where minutes before huge men tore into each other. Good job everyone.

Oh, I guess there was a football game. Broadcasters supported the wrong side. Nothing out of the ordinary there. I’m glad Peyton Manning’s group won. It was his 200th win and perhaps his last game. Sniff.

So will they return to Roman Numerals next year. Superbowl LI.  I doubt it.


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Parking Bill of Rights, Part Deux

A few years ago the City of Atlanta began a program to ‘fix’ its broken parking system. As part of this, they had a citizens commission work with parking managers in the city to go over every rule, regulation, and law to see what could be changed, fixed, or made more clear.

After month of discussions, the primary ‘fix’ was that the signage that provided instructions to parkers needed to be more clear.

It seems that when the rules are explained, and the reasoning behind them, the good citizens of Atlanta felt that the rules were fine. They just needed to be told about them.

Poor communication, you are a heartless beast.


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A Parking Bill of Rights

A California Assemblyman Gatto has proposed a “Parking Bill of Rights.” A news release from his office listed these “rights”:

  • Maintaining the law that tickets cannot be issued at broken meters. This law will expire at the end of 2016, and Gatto is looking to extend it.
  • Once street cleaning is finished, parking spots would immediately become available to drivers.
  • Valet attendants would not be able to tell drivers they couldn’t use metered spots or loading zones.
  • The implementation of demand-based pricing at meters, where meters would be cheaper at times when demand is low. This is already in effect in some areas of L.A., including downtown L.A. and Westwood Village.
  • If a car was illegally parked because of a crime and it wasn’t the car owner’s fault, tow companies would have a harder time fining the owner. For example, if someone steals your car, takes it for a ride and then ditches it somewhere where it’s illegal to park, tow companies wouldn’t be able to slap you with a huge bill.
  • Cities would not be allowed to hire private companies to work as “parking bounty hunters.”

We issue tickets at broken meters because we can’t collect fees with a broken meter. I rather like this “Right”. Let people park at broken meters and motivate the city to fix the meters. I realize that some feel that the wiley motorist will simply jam the meter and then claim its broken. That could be handled with ‘warnings’ given to such parkers. And after so many warnings, they get a ticket anyway.

I love the idea that once the street sweeper goes by, the populace can park on the street . But just how do you adjudicate this. If I see the sweeper go by, I will park. But if I didn’t see it go by, how will I know? I can see numerous arguments with the enforcement staff being generated over this one.

Valet attendants can’t use spaces in front of businesses. Huh…just how are they supposed to provide the valet service.  This one is a non starter.

Demand based Pricing?  Sure bring it on. I’m not sure how this benefits the parker, except to raise the fee he pays during high traffic times, but at least it will keep Don Shoup happy.

Of course a car owner shouldn’t have to pay parking fines when a car is stolen. Duh

But I love the last one — What, exactly, are “Parking Bounty Hunters.”  Are these enforcement staff, or are they collection agencies used to collect overdue citations. In either case, this, too, is a non starter.

I think our assemblyman needs to get some parking folk involved in his “bill of rights.” Many ideas are nice on paper but crumble when put in practice.


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