In 2010 the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) in Washington D.C. initiated its new pay-by-phone parking system. The intent of this system was to eliminate the need for drivers to have change handy to feed into parking meters.
The D.C. pilot program began on April 12, 2010 and is still be going strong. In downtown Washington pay-by-phone meter options can be observed throughout the city.
At the time of its launch, DDOT Director Gabe Klein said, "This service will greatly improve the parking experience for many of our residents, because its so simple to use." He added, "No one likes to carry a lot of change, but almost everyone has a cell phone, and all it takes is one call to pay for a meter."
Across the globe many other cities are beginning to seriously look at pay-by-phone options for parking meters in addition to coins and/or credit cards.
San Francisco just announced last month they were implementing pay-by-phone parking throughout the city; New York City announced their pilot program last summer.
Its also being used and/or considered in Canada, Australia and in the U.K.
Pros of this kind of system are convenience, and some services even send text messages to let the user know meter time is almost up, however the cons can be associated with privacy/security risks (as with anything these days) and also the fact mistakes can happen.
For instance, The Washington Examiner recently reported despite the fact pay-by-phone parking systems are supposed to "make parking easy", approximately 25 drivers a day are still getting ticketed after paying the meter with a mobile phone.
The Examiner report cited examples of a few dissatisfied users, some of which had been ticketed numerous times despite having paid the parking fees through their phones.
One Northern Virginia resident, Laura Howell, told The Examiner, "The mobile payment system is flawed and should not be grounds to receive a ticket until all system issues are resolved," also mentioning she'd been ticketed three times.
The reason given for the average of 25 undeserved tickets being issued a day in Washington is being attributed to delays in data being transferred.
"There are times there is a delay," DDOT spokesman John Lisle told The Examiner in Dec. 2011, adding that the city is updating the pay-by-phone software to fix the glitches. "We're working to eliminate those problems, and if it does happen to somebody, they can [appeal] it to the Department of Motor Vehicles."
Reportedly the number of undeserved tickets are not representative of the overall success of the program, with 180,000 registered users in the District, about 10,000 a day are using the service.
It appears based on major cities integrating mobile payments within its meter fee options, that this trend might be here to stay. Perhaps this is not so surprising being that mobile use is anticipated to explode by 2015.
Additionally a recent report in Nov. 2011, "Already 16% of smartphone owners use PayPal or other types of e-Wallet solutions as their preferred method for mobile payments, and 1 in 4 Millennials regularly use their mobile phones to research products or services prior to a purchase."
Mobile is definitely en vogue, and chances are more pay-by-phone options will be cropping up in many regions. If history is any indicator with other market changes that rely on the marriage between convenience and technology, there may soon come a time where fishing for coins to feed the meter is a far distant memory.
Does your city offer pay-by-phone parking? If it did, would you use it?