Talkin’ Transit: Parking Edition

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courtesy of ‘Danilo.Lewis|Fotography’

I hate parking meters. I think they’re an awful concept. Not because they make you pay for what you use, but rather how they make you pay for it: with change.  As rates have increased in the downtown core to $2/hr, it means that you need to carry with you rolls and rolls of quarters if you’re going to do any parking in the core that isn’t in a garage.

We started to see pay-by-phone metering last year, with a number of trials in Dupont Circle and in Foggy Bottom with a pair of services that work on a zone-based system.  Call a number, enter a credit card (the first time) and then enter the zone where you’re parked.  Bam, you’re good for as long as you’re within the limit for the zone.  If you only intend to stay for 50 minutes, that’s all you pay for, instead of the potential for overpaying at a traditional coin meter.  It’s a revolution.

Starting this June, the District will be rolling this out for all 17,000 metered parking spaces in the District, making coin-haters everywhere happy. The winner of the contract is Parkmobile, where you can register an account now, or just call in the first time you use the new technology.  In addition, there will be apps for iPhones, Android phones and Blackberries, which can take some of the hard work out of it for you through GPS location.

Our request for comment to DDOT went unanswered yesterday afternoon as to why they selected Parkmobile instead of the PayByPhone service from Verrus that was also in testing on K Street, I Street and near Dupont Circle.  Verrus is in the process of rolling out a realtime parking availability service for San Francisco’s SFpark, which could have been a real boon for the District’s driving populace.

Other Notes: A few other notes from around the transit-sphere. WIRED had a great piece last week on how mobile apps are empowering transit riders, which echoes the point I was making about Seattle’s great transportation system: The strength is in the flexibility of the system and the ways that riders can know their options.  Paper timetables aren’t cutting, Metro, and the rideguide just isn’t a functional option on a mobile phone.

Combining two of my loves, the Metro and Baseball, WMATA and the Nationals are trying to negotiate over who will pay for late night extensions to service in case of extra innings or rain delay or both.  Currently, the city pays for late train service, which they do not do for any other sport. The Nats may find themselves a bill for $90,000 an hour, or about twice what they’re paying Ryan Zimmerman for each game this season.

I live and work in the District of Columbia. I write at We Love DC, a blog I helped start, I work at Technolutionary, a company I helped start, and I’m happy doing both. I enjoy watching baseball, cooking, and gardening. I grow a mean pepper, keep a clean scorebook, and wash the dishes when I’m done. Read Why I Love DC.

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3 thoughts on “Talkin’ Transit: Parking Edition

  1. Having used a Parkmobile test spot in Foggy Bottom last year, I was glad to see that they now have a mobile app. Ideally that would make using the system easier, right?. Alas, their Android version seems to have a flaw:

    Speaking of which, the Parkmobile system functioned properly when I used it, but I still got a ticket from DC. Through a series of letters and phone calls between me, Parkmobile, and the city it all got straightened out, but it took awhile and wasn’t easy.

    Here’s to hoping that all the kinks have been or will be worked out for the full launch.

  2. Personally, I prefer the machines that allow you to enter a credit card and get a little receipt to stick in your window/on your dash. It gives you a record that you paid which you can hold in your hand, in case something goes wrong with the online payment. The machines just need to be built reliably enough that the screens aren’t impossible to read 3/4 of the time…