Smarter than a smart card? Sounds good…

I liked what I read about the possibility of Columbia getting parking meters that you can feed via mobile phone:

Columbia has 4,700 parking meters that take loose change and about 129,000 people that don’t have any.

But city officials want to add a payment option that seemingly everyone has: cell phones.

Columbia is in the market for pay-by-phone parking, hoping the convenience will entice drivers to pay more often for parking and help offset the city’s dwindling revenue from parking garages….

How it works:

• Step 1: Drivers would dial a phone number listed on the parking meter. First-time users would need to set up an account through a computer

• Step 2: Drivers then tell the computer how long they will be parked. Some spaces won’t allow parking for more than a certain amount of time.

• Step 3: The computer will charge the credit or debit card, plus 35 cents. The city gets the parking fee, the company keeps the 35 cents.

As you may recall, I have in the past complained about my travails with trying, and failing, to keep the meter fed. Acting on advice from a reader, I went and got a Smart Card (pictured above) from the city parking services on Washington Street.

It’s pretty cool. You put a certain amount of money on it (I tend to do $20 at a time), and keep it in your pocket, then you’re always ready. Insert it into one of those slots on the meters, and it first tells you how much money you have left on it. Then it starts counting off how much time you’re paying for … 20 minutes… 40… 60… 80… and you pull it out when you’ve programmed it for however long you expect to be.

It works pretty well. I’ve only gotten a couple of tickets since I got my card. And those tend to happen because you can’t always predict how long that meeting is going to be.

So it is that I’d like something smarter than a smart card. And phone-it-in thing sounds good to me. I’m sure my new iPhone can get an app for that.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how the city will pay for the new meters… hey, if that 35 cents won’t cover it, they’ve probably gotten enough money from me over the years to make up the difference….

4 thoughts on “Smarter than a smart card? Sounds good…

  1. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    The city doesn’t get the 35 cents–that goes to the processing company.

    Parking revenues are down–perhaps because tenancy in metered areas is also down.

    Everybody may have a cellphone, but the more frugal among us only have voice service. It’s cheaper to just put more time in the meter than you think you’ll need.

  2. Greg

    I’m always mad when I drive off with money on the meter…can’t I get that back. I frequently have to go to J Square to see Medicaid. It’s a state agency. Why do I have to pay to come see them? (And usually any meeting I’m in there, at least these days costs me money anyway.)

  3. Barry

    because of parking meters, I avoid visiting downtown. I generally prefer not not pay money so that I can go in and buy something at a local business.


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