Parking Meters Don’t Work — Whose Fault is that?

Jersey City is removing some Multispace Pay and Display machines and replacing them with the older style single space meters that were there before.  From the article in the local paper:  (Paretti is the CEO of the local parking authority.)

According to Paretti, the newer meters do indeed work, but shoppers weren’t always using them correctly. “One of the major issue is people weren’t reading the instructions,” Paretti said.

Welcome to JVH’s problem with manufacturers. These things are often hard to use.  I operate under the credo that if you have to read instructions, or at least one that is more than one short sentence, you have lost the battle.

Take a standard parking meter — there are no instructions, you simply insert coins and the time on the meter goes up.  When you reach the max, or the time you want, you stop putting in coins. Simple. Straightforward.  Even PT’s editor can do it.

I suggest that new devices need to be as simple.  They are forced to be slightly more complicated, because they often require you to do more (input space number, get a coupon and take it back to your car,  etc).

Instructions need to be clear and where you can see them.  I like “Push any button to start” — This is to wake up the machine and put something on the display. This needs to be in large type, across the top of the machine.  Little stickers somewhere don’t work.

If you accept credit cards then it should say “Insert coin or insert and remove card to start” and when you do, you get the maximum time allowed(with card).  One button — with a down arrow — allows you to subtract time  leading to second instruction — Hit down (arrow) button to reduce parking time.  You have one more button that says “DONE”

It seems to me that is all you need — If a person walks away without hitting the “done” button, charge them after 15 seconds or whatever. If they walk away and their card is rejected, go immediately to “violation” and give them a citation.

Displays HAVE to be clear and easy to read, even in bright sunlight — If science can make a billboard that I can read in the middle of the day from 100 feet away sitting in my car, then it can produce a display that can be read by a half blind, 60 plus year old, who doesn’t want to be there anyway.

Oh, and the “insert card here”…There needs to be a clear, easy to understand, drawing of how the card goes in. There are four ways to insert a card, you shouldn’t be able to get the card in the slot in two of the ways, but people try anyway.  How much more does it cost to put a second read head so you can insert the card in any direction?

It think we give people too many choices. Keep it simple and people will be able to use it.

One last thing, the Aunt Mazie test.  If my Aunt Mazie can’t use it, then it won’t work. Everyone has an Aunt Mazie.  The manufacturer needs to bring her in to the office, tell her nothing, and let her try to use the machine. If she has any problem, back to the drawing board.

In Jersey City, they are removing the meters because the “don’t work” and “shoppers aren’t using them correctly.”  My guess is that these are one in the same problem. My solution – make meters that are easy to use.

H/T – Mark




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