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Monday, February 14, 2005 

Pay the meter via Cell Phone

This seems pretty damn useful and slick. Ofcourse I can't see places like CP or Bethesda ever implementing stuff like this, because they make so much money off parking tickets.

Running late? Feed the meter by phone

Tired of feeding the meter? Dial your cell phone.

That's just what students and faculty have been doing at the University of California-Santa Barbara, in the year and a half since the campus, with help from IBM, overhauled its parking system.

Now, experts expect that more people will dig into their pockets for a phone rather than a quarter to pay for a parking spot — at colleges, businesses or just on the street. Installations are in place in Europe and in a growing number of North American cities, including Seattle; Vancouver, Canada; and, soon, Minneapolis.

Hard statistics are difficult to come by. But Neil Podmore of Vancouver-based Verrus, which is involved in the pay-by-cell parking technology, estimates about 100,000 spots are being paid for by phone in North America and 250,000 worldwide. Podmore says he thinks the worldwide total will reach 500,000 spaces by year's end.

What's driving the trend: Consumers like the convenience and safety of not having to race back to a parking spot to feed the meter, especially at night. On the other side, parking-lot operators can better manage costs.

Here's how pay-by-cell works: Once an account is set up, a motorist finds a stall, parks the car, calls a toll-free number and keys in the stall number.

People might actually save money because time doesn't count against them until they pull into a parking spot; with other electronic systems, the clock starts ticking once a driver takes a ticket to enter the gate, even if it takes time to find a space.

And if a person is running late, he can remotely buy more parking time with another phone call. The bill is typically sent to a credit card.

At UCSB, students receive a text message on their phones, warning them five minutes before their time is about to expire.

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