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Top off Your Parking Meter with a Cell Call 430

dstone writes "Vancouver, Canada has just become the first major city in North America to allow motorists to feed their parking meters with their cell phone. Drivers call a number on each meter, the system recognizes them by Caller ID, they enter how many minutes they want, and that's it. The system sends them a reminder text message before their time is up and they can extend their time remotely. The catch? The company contracted to provide the service, Verrus, makes their money through a 30-cent 'convenience fee.' Less pockets full of change, less parking tickets, seems like a step forward."
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Top off Your Parking Meter with a Cell Call

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  • Wrong Number? (Score:5, Insightful)

    So do you trade parking meter stickers with Lexus guy then?
  • by OYAHHH ( 322809 ) * on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:27PM (#15613967) Homepage

    I'm not way off-track one of the purposes of a parking meter is the annoyance feature. Keeps a set of rich guys from pumping quarters in it all day long without any negative consequences for them.

    This tech enables that sort of behavior.

    And then the poor slobs get to walk a half a mile just to get to the courthouse.....
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:32PM (#15614012)
      Actually, here in Calgary CANADA, there's been a big hubub recently about people parking all day at parking meters and just paying the fine. It was cheaper to pay the $25 fine than to pay $28 for eight hours of parking.
      Apparently a secretary for couple of law offices would regularily just walk into city hall with a list of license numbers of the partners and pay off all the fines on-masse

      City of Calgary is considering raising the daily fine to $300 now
    • Yeah. This sorta thing is just lazy. Seriously. Like getting groceries online.....that has to be one of the things I still don't get. Just get your ass to the store.

    • by danzona ( 779560 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:41PM (#15614110)
      Here in Chicago, most parking meters have a time limit for parking. So it will say 25c / 30 minutes, 2 hour limit.

      In Chicago, it appears that enforcement of this is half hearted (compared with places like Carmel where they use chalk to mark the tires to enforce the time limit).

      Anyway, it would not be hard for the cell phone parking meter to enforce the time limit. So after 4 quarters, the parking meter won't take any more money and the driver has to move.

      Wouldn't it be great if the parking meter could tell that you hadn't paid or moved the car and then issued the cell phone an instant meter violation charge? I believe that is $50 in Chicago. Plus a 30 cent convenience fee.
      • where i live the do the chalk thing too.. i walked out just intime to see a cop making my tires.. i have him holy hell about vandilizing my car.. caught him completely off gaurd - he really had no excuse.. jsut said he was sorry and i left.

        it was all in good fun though.. i am glad they ticket people.. i just hate it when the see a meeter with like 2 min on it and jsut stand there and wait for it.. i had one like that (diffrent cop) they stuck the ticket to the windshield as i was turnning the car on.
        • by admdrew ( 782761 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:06PM (#15614369) Homepage
          i have [sic] him holy hell about vandilizing my car..
          it was all in good fun though..

          Congrats, asshole. Way to ruin a guy's day while he was doing his job. We've all been pissed about parking tickets, but the onus is on the owner of the car to make sure the meter is paid, not the person in charge of writing tickets. Why should you expect leniency from a cop who probably has to do that all day? To him, your car is no more important than the thousands of others out there.

          • He gave "have him holy hell about vandilizing" his car with the chaulk. So, it isn't about the guy doing his job, is about the method that was employed. How is it okay for the meter person to draw on your tires like that? If I spent time cleaning my tires and wheels just to have chaulk on them for NOT VIOLATING anything, I'd be miffed also. Granted, I'd probably just forget about, but I understand where the GP's comming from.

            In Boston, they use the big yellow locks on the wheels (can't recall the name)
      • Inconvenience is a major feature of parking meters, as they are largely designed to dissuade people from parking curbside long term. Case in point, check out these parking meter fees near Times Square in New York:

        1 hour: $2; 2 hours: $5; 3 hours: $9

        Notice how the pricing is scaled to deter long term parking. These machines DO NOT TAKE BILLS, so you must carry huge amounts of quarters with you.

        Conclusion: If cell phone payment methods become widespread in the US, I expect either sharp rate increases or

    • Keeps a set of rich guys from pumping quarters in it all day long without any negative consequences for them.

      I hope the next feature added will be automatically issued parking tickets when someone exceeds their time... sort of 'convenience ticket'. That is what you will eventually get when you disclose your id/cell number in advance in a ticket gamble.
    • Well it works out nicely as an annoyance. I work part time for my friend's kitchen installation business and when we're working in the city (Manhattan) parking is frustrating. Being able to stay at a job for more than an hour before I have to go fill up the meter would be so nice.
  • There aren't a lot of convenience fees that I wholeheartedly support, but 30 cents to not have to run out to my parking meter sounds like a winner.
    • Re:convenience fees (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BunnyClaws ( 753889 )
      Very true. I would be happy to pay the extra 30 cents for the convenience of not having to look for change. I never have change on me. Now what I would really like is for vending machines to take debit cards because once again I never have change on me. I am all about convenience which is the reason I pay an extra dollar for milk from Walgreens instead of going to the grocery store.
  • Competition (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wlkrt0 ( 985337 )
    So does this mean that every city in Canada will be able to use a different service provider?
    While it would be feasible to maintain an account with several providers in different cities, it seems like a government-sponsered portal would make more sense than required accounts to be created directly on the company site. Maybe this won't be an issue since most of one's parking would be in one city; just a thought.
    • I remember reading once that the very first Parking Meters were installed in Albuquerque New Mexico about 100 years ago. It was a temorary meassure to pay for some needed street repair. The streets are still broken.. and the meters are still there...
  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:33PM (#15614021)
    I remember the first time (too many years back, now) that I experienced Convenience while I was in line at a McDonalds grabbing a burger on my way someplace. I told the cashier I wanted a Diet Coke as my combo drink. She handed me the now-expected empty cup and told me that I would be getting the drink from the "Convenience Center" across the store.

    "Convenient for who?" I asked. And she told me, unblinkingly, that it had in fact really made their job a lot easier.
    • i find the free refills and mixable drinks pretty convenient...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "McDonaldsisation" is actually what I've heard that referred to. And it's not limited to your soft drink :

      - You get your cutelery yourself
      - You get straws yourself
      - You clear up after yourself (disposing in the trash

      And then on a wider levels

      - At the coffee shop, your add your own extra (milk, sugar, etc.)
      - At the supermarket you collect your own groceries (compare this to the grocers at the market, or of the '40s and '50s)
      - You server yourself gas (if you're not in NJ)

      However, these are by no means negativ
      • and with all that put on the customer, some actually have the balls to leave out a tip jar.
      • That's kind of a mixed list. With respect to the coffee shops, unless I'm in a huge hurry I much prefer to put in my own cream and sugar. It doesn't seem to matter if it's a neighborhood shop or a Starbucks / Dunkin' Donuts...they WILL get your order wrong at least half the time. Or at least vary dramatically in their interpretation of "a little" or "a lot". Maybe that's how they get us to accept these "convenient" cost-cutting features. Make the regular service so mind-bogglingly incompetent that doing ev
    • My all time favorite stupid "convenience" type fee is how Ticketmaster (last time I looked at least) actually charges more for you to download and print out your own tickets than for them to mail them to you!

      Second would be being charged to electronically file my taxes. For the past several years I have owed the IRS, so there is no way I am going to pay extra so they can get my money sooner.
  • more lazy people (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jtaylor00 ( 670164 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:34PM (#15614034)
    Less pockets full of change, less parking tickets more people too lazy to walk down the street and burn off that big mac to put more change in the meter.

    Granted, there are some instances when this would be nice, but I think most people would use it because they are just plan lazy. Convenience, less exercise, and more food has made this nation very plump.

    Also, why would a city want to risk losing that much revenue from all those tickets?

    • The city in question where this is happening, Vancouver, is well-known as having pretty much the skinniest population in North America. So it would seem there isn't much to your asserted correlation between coinless meters and getting fat.
      • The city in question where this is happening, Vancouver, is well-known as having pretty much the skinniest population in North America. So it would seem there isn't much to your asserted correlation between coinless meters and getting fat.

        That's true right now, sure. But the program has only just started. Wait till you see what a bunch of fatsos crop up in Vancouver a year from now.
  • Sounds like a good idea on the surface, but how many transactions do you need to rack up for this system to pay for itself?

    • Many large cities are now using "intelligent" parking meters that are network-connected anyway so that cops can easily download a list of which spaces are supposed to be open, and which are supposed to be empty. There's usually one meter per block/street, and to pay, you walk to the meter, enter your parking spot number, and deposit the money. Some meters let you use a debit card as well. You also get a receipt, which is incredibly useful when fighting a parking fine for all parties involved.

      In other wor
    • Sounds like a good idea on the surface, but how many transactions do you need to rack up for this system to pay for itself?

      How many transactions do you think happen at a typical parking meter in a day?

      If you set a 2-hr time limit, and your meters are on for 12 hours, you could easily run up $1.50 in revenue or more per day per meter. In some areas, you're talking about $2/day per meter -- overlap time gets billed to two people :) How about places with 1-hr time limits?

      The system itself would be pretty

  • by telso ( 924323 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:36PM (#15614053)
    To use a washer, text the word "SLUG" to 91111.
  • In Africa, they're using cellphones for personal [] banking [], which is a pretty good way to move money without the hassle of checks an credit cards. I'm not sure I like this 30 cent fee, given that most parking isn't all that expensive.

    • Where I used to work in Minnesota, parking cost $2 per hour, only allowing you to put in a max of 2 hours at a time. There was no total limit, but every two hours you had to walk back to the meter and pump some more quarters in. I would've gladly paid 30 cents every two hours to save the 15 minutes required to get to and from the parking ramp.

      ...although, it was nice to have extra sanctioned 15 minute breaks :)

  • Scare quotes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kevin_conaway ( 585204 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:39PM (#15614091) Homepage
    Why the scare quotes [] around convenience fees? Is the submitter implying that the cell phone company should graciously provide this service for free? Or perhaps the fee isn't really a fee?

    Either way, editorializing in the summary is silly.
    • Emptying parking meters is a pretty albor intenstive task, and in big cities they must hold a lot of cash. When i lived in Edinburgh it cost me about $18/day to park in front of my apartment and that was several times less than parking in the city center.

      I'd imagine parking meters are prime targets for drug users and petty theives and i've seen quite a lot of vandalized ones.

      However, they wrap this up as being convenient for the end user (which it is too) and have the user pay the convenience fee.
    • The cell phone company is not providing the service.

      The concept of a "convenience fee" for a solution which is:
      1) Technologically more advanced
      2) Cheaper for the solution provider to operate (no meters to empty etc.)
      3) Not, frankly, all that convenient given that I have to make a call, have a credit card etc.

      is a bit of a misnomer.

      I love paying those "convenience fees" at banks, while they fire staff and save more money. It's great!
      • Re:Scare quotes (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bunions ( 970377 )
        They still have to empty the meters. People can still pay by coin in case they (gasp) don't have a cellphone.

        it's pretty convenient if you remember that it rains pretty much all winter long in Vancouver and that you can get pretty wet standing there digging around for dimes as opposed to getting inside and then phoning in.

        It's not a misnomer at all. It is more convenient for you and the city (or someone) has to pay more in credit card processing costs.

    • The price should be the same; presumably, this will allow the city to cut labor costs involved in collection of change from meters.

      If a lot of people end up using the non-change system and the convenience fees are still charged, it will effectively mean that the parking meter charges--apart from fees--have been raised, since the city will be getting the same income with less expense.

      In other words, these convenience fees are shifting collection costs from the city to the consumer.

  • by dotmax ( 642602 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:42PM (#15614116)
    In a lot of [U.S.] cities, running out to stuff another wad of quarters in the meter will get you a ticket, the concept being that metered parking is temporary parking. Curbside metered parking is designed for people who are going to get-in/get-out. If you're going to be somewhere all day you should either be using a parking garage or alternate transportation. In theory.

    This scheme seems like a bullshit technological antisolution that would only make the current street parking situation worse,

    • If it was strictly for get in/out quickly, wouldn't they just paint the curb green with a "XX minute parking" label on it?
    • In theory, meter parking is designed to make sure that parking is temporary... but in reality, it is simply a revenue grab by the city. It is just not polite for the government to say "WE WANT MORE MONEY!!!! GIVE US MORE MONEY!!!", so every tax/fee needs a respectable sounding reason to exist.

      There are other examples of this:

      1. If they REALLY wanted to curb speeding, they would make all speeding tickets be for $10,000 and 30 days in jail, and speeding would stop overnight! Speeding fines are calculated to b
  • Uh huh. Except... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by penguinstorm ( 575341 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:44PM (#15614131) Homepage
    1) It bills to your credit card
    2) I don't have a credit card
    3) I don't like The Man tracking my activities, right down to where and when I park

    Just a thought.
    • Just a thought.

      Here's another: those w/o a credit card can still use change.

    • I don't like The Man tracking my activities

      The Man is only interested in collecting the convenience fee, and could give two craps about where you parked your car - just as long as you pay.
    • by 5KVGhost ( 208137 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:58PM (#15614858)
      "I don't like The Man tracking my activities, right down to where and when I park"

      You're concerned about The Man knowing where you park your registered motor vehicle, license plate clearly visible as required by law, on a public street? As you enter and exit your vehicle in public view. Yep, that's some highly sensitive and privileged information right there.
      • As with all these systems (street cams, ez-pass, etc) the value to 'The Man' comes in after the fact.

        "Who was parked at 3rd & Main last tuesday at 2PM?"
        If you willingly give them the data for them to store, it will be easy to find out.
  • Fffft, old news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:45PM (#15614144)
    We in the old world have been having this system for about 2 years now.

    Without convenience fee.
    • We in the old world have been having this system for about 2 years now.
      We're always 5 years behind in the US when it comes to technology. 2 years behind is progress!

      Without convenience fee.
      Yea, we're also used to be being screwed.

  • by Osrin ( 599427 ) * on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:46PM (#15614154) Homepage =usjXpress&ID=256 []

    I travel there on business from time to time, folks that I work with there have been doing something like this using SMS for a while now.

    It is good to see the US catching up.
  • by KavyBoy ( 35619 )
    Wellington, NZ implemented this a while back []. I knew one of the IT guys involved. They were happy to get paid for doing the work, but they were sure it wouldn't be a success. After all, who would pay extra for this? Much to his surprise, it's been very successful.
  • by jjeffrey ( 558890 ) * <> on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:50PM (#15614197) Homepage
    Verrus operate a similar system at the council car parks in York, England. It's great - finding the change was always a pain!

    They get the number of your cell phone from caller ID and store your vehicle registration plate and credit card details against it the first time you call. The next time you call you just tell it how many hours you want and enter the 4 digit code for the car park you are using. For an extra 10p you can get a reminder SMS. You are also free to call again and extend the parking.

    If you don't have your cell phone with you then you can use any phone, and just tap in your cell number and the PIN number you set the first time you called. You also use that PIN if you want to change credit card or vehicle registration numbers.

    The wardens have machines that have details of the electronically issued tickets on them, so they don't clamp you :)
  • by dwandy ( 907337 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:53PM (#15614242) Homepage Journal
    All my calls come from (202) 456-1414 []
  • by ezratrumpet ( 937206 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @01:54PM (#15614245) Journal
    The Man probably doesn't care about temporary parking vs. garage parking. If anything, the Man will encourage more use of temporary (aka parking meter) parking. Meters, when in use, make more money than parking garages. If the Man can keep the metered spaces full, it means more money for governmental projects.
  • Since the citizenery of the US doesn't like to pay adequate taxes for the services they demand, US cities are forced to get their revenue from really irrating sources like parking tickets. Cities like San Francisco don't actually want you put money in the meter since that deprives them of the oppurtunity for "revenue enchancement." This is why they make it diffcult to use the meter through tactics like quarters only and not fixing broken meters.
  • While I'm far from an anti-tech alarmist... it seems like another handing over of your personal information to the government, which ultimately ends up in the hands of private companies... all in the name of "convenience."

    While Canadian law is much different than US law... it's somewhat alarming that EZ-Pass [] information is being used against people in court.

    It's also going to be funny receiving a text that says: "Your car has been towed! $250 has been removed from your account.
  • This would be especially nice for students at the University here... where the Tues/Thurs classes are usually about an hour and a half long, but the parking meters only let you put in a maximum of 1 hour's worth of coins. And summer session classes can be even longer.

    Would much rather send a text message on my cellphone from in class, and pay a 30 cent convenience charge than have a ticket.

    Then again, I'm sure the University would never adopt these meters... I think they limit the time on purpose so they c
  • Woohoo - North America is proving to lead the high-tech way again. Give it another 5 years and we may be able to buy a Coke at a vending machine and pay by cell phone. Follow us Europe, we are right behind you... ;)
  • Pleease don't tell me they plan on using Caller ID [] as a secure method of verification. Funny enough, TFA doesn't mention caller id at all, but I'd hope that something slightly more secure is actually implemented.
  • by Aqua_boy17 ( 962670 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @02:08PM (#15614395)
    ...feed their parking meters with their cell phone
    I'd like to try this, but I can't seem to fit my phone into the coin slot. Maybe if I bought a Razr?
  • Vancouver, Canada, does not understand the purpose of Parking Meters.
  • This makes me kind of wish for a parking meter with a swipe-slot for an ATM/debit card, much like almost every gas pump has now. I'd rather feed the meter before I walk away from it, and like many, I usually don't have much change on me anymore.
  • In The Netherlands, you call and enter the code when you park, then when you leave, you call again. You only pay for the time you actually parked. If you forget to unregister your car, you get unregistered automatically at midnight.

    Of course there is a fee for each call. There is also a small yearly subscription fee for this service (in addition to the per call fee).

    The alternative is to buy a ticket from a parking machine in advance, usually overestimating the amount of time you need.

    Compared to the actual
  • Richmond, VA provides this service on many meters. I've never used it, but I couldn't help but notice 'em last time I was walking around downtown.

    -Waldo Jaquith
  • TXT-a-Park (Score:3, Informative)

    by barnaclebarnes ( 85340 ) on Tuesday June 27, 2006 @03:40PM (#15615228) Homepage
    We have had TXT-a-Park for a while here in NZ - park.jsp?item=txt_a_park []

    They charge a 50c transaction fee which is pretty steep, especially when you are only paying $3.50 for the actual parking. Having the system txt you when your parking is almost up and email receipts is a great idea which I wish they would implement here.

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.