Posts about Pay By Phone
Parkmobile, the vendor that provides the District's pay by phone system, just sent out an email to all of its customers, saying that it is raising its fee for each parking transaction by 10¢. However, it is also introducing a system that lets people store up value and then pay a lower fee.
Beginning October 29th, transaction fees in DC will increase from $0.32 to $0.45 due to increased costs triggered by recent federal legislative reform enacted by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act's Durbin Amendment.The wallet essentially works more like SmarTrip or E-ZPass. Instead of paying by credit card for each transaction, you store some value in a Parkmobile account and then spend that down.
To help offset this increase Parkmobile has developed the Parkmobile Wallet which will provide a more cost-effective parking experience in DC
— Wallet transactions will carry a $.30 transaction fee.
DDOT has an exclusive contract with Parkmobile. The contract does give DDOT authority to approve or reject rate increases, and DDOT spokesperson John Lisle said that the company had been talking with DDOT. DDOT officials were persuaded that the reasons for raising the rates were real, and agreed to a rate increase.
Lisle also pointed out that 45¢ is not out of line with other Parkmobile installations; fees in Rehoboth are 45¢ today, for instance.
The way the email blames regulatory reform seems somewhat suspicious, though. According to Parkmobile spokesperson Laurens Eckelboom, the Durbin Amendment last year capped the "interchange fees" that card issuers could charge. Banks responded by eliminating discounts they had previously given to merchants who process a lot of very small transactions.
As a result, Parkmobile's transaction fees tripled. Eckelboom was not willing to say what the fees they pay to banks are, but he said that they were losing money with the current 32¢ fees.
Whether or not this is actually a consequence of the Durbin amendment or just bank behavior is a subject of dispute. Eamon Murphy wrote for AOL last December:
But higher costs due to swipe fees are not direct consequences of the law itself; rather, they result from the card companies' response to the law. This is not the financial industry's first attempt to avoid any loss to their own profit margins by raising costs for others: Big banks previously floated plans to charge consumers a monthly fee for debit cards, before a public backlash caused them to back down.It's clear this change was out of Parkmobile's control, but less clear they needed to specifically blame Durbin and not their banks, or just note that this was a result of rising credit and debit card fees without blaming anyone.
DDOT did not choose to share any information with the public as these discussions were going on. Lisle noted that DDOT negotiates other contracts, like streetlights, without public input. However, those contracts involve spending DDOT's budget, whereas this one authorizes a third party with a government-granted monopoly to charge residents more.
Pepco has to go through more of a public process to raise its rates. Should a more participatory process apply here as well, or is it best to leave it to those whose job is to manage the program?
One long-term solution is to set up a mechanism where multiple companies can compete. Establish an API where any authorized provider can register parking actions with a central DDOT database. Each provider collects payments on its own, however it wants, and then gives DDOT all of the base parking fees at the end of each week or month.
Such a solution would require some software development and take effort, but that would let companies choose their own fees and compete based on them, service, app quality, and more. The same API and maybe the same backend technology could work across many cities, letting cities share the cost of building the system.
Late on Friday, DDOT announced a number of small changes that move parking policy in DC a few steps forward.
At meters in "premium demand zones," parking time limits won't apply after 6:30 pm. Drivers still have to pay for parking after that time, but can park for any amount of time. Premium demand zones include Adams Morgan, Georgetown, Chinatown, U Street, Friendship Heights, downtown, the Mall, and the waterfront area.
Update: DDOT emphasized that the time limits will remain in the ballpark and Columbia Heights performance parking pilot zones.
This is really great news. Parking time limits make little sense when your customers are out for a night of entertainment. It is better to have parking availability driven by appropriately set prices rather than force the turnover that time limits produce at a time when turnover isn't as desirable.
Time limits are expensive to enforce, requiring near-constant supervision by parking control officers. If the city enforces time limits too aggressively, the perception is that the enforcement is too harsh. But if the enforcement is too lax, then spaces are not available for use. By enforcing meter payment only, enforcement is easier and ticketing is somewhat more objective: you either have paid or you haven't.
One effect of this change is that where meters still take quarters, drivers will need a lot of them. Another effect could be that some spaces become too scarce once some people start parking for the whole evening. Five new technology pilots around the city will help with both occupancy tracking and easier payment. Many of these new meters are pay-by-space, and some include occupancy sensors allowing real-time and accurate measurements. Hopefully DDOT will put this to good use to adjust pricing based on demand.
For the National Mall area of Independence Avenue SW (in front of the Smithsonian Castle and art gallery buildings), and the newly opened Barracks Row parking lot (underneath the freeway), DDOT will be using Parkeon pay by space meters that also have a pay by phone option.
Pay by space is where the driver enters the number of their space in the meter, instead of having to put a receipt on the dashboard ("pay and display") like the current multispace meters. This is slightly more convenient by avoiding the need to return to the car with a receipt, and it offers the option of adding more time by cell phone.
However, when used for curbside parallel parking, it requires officially dividing the spaces by painting lines on the street, which forces greater separation between cars than is possible without lines. On the other hand, because the number of spaces is fixed, figuring out the occupancy ratio is easier.
Another feature touted on the vendor website is the ability to add time to your parking space from any compatible meter in the city with your space number.
The lot is right near my work, so I'll be riding over periodically to see how this works, and I'll request occupancy data from DDOT to see how the pricing is going. The initial pricing on the meter was the same as the on-street spaces which are much more convenient. I expect the lot to have low occupancy compared to the street, but there might be enough demand to fill them both.
For the Friendship Heights area, DDOT is testing pay-by-space meters with occupancy sensors by Duncan Solutions. The vendor website lists the ability to program the meters remotely, allowing adjustment of time limit policy or pricing without visiting each meter, something that is a limitation for implementing performance parking.Cale Parking Systems USA. The vendor website does not offer much informtion about the pay by license plate option, and I have not heard of this technology through industry magazines like Parking Today or other parking related blogs (yes, I am a huge parking nerd). I assume that DDOT will address issues with privacy associated with using your license plate number. DDOT says that enforcement of spaces will use handheld or car-mounted devices.
For the Ballpark area, Reservoir Road NW and Foggy Bottom, DDOT appears to be moving away from having installed parking meters by partnering with ParkMobile to provide pay-by-cell or pay-by-app (iPhone or Blackberry only, no Android yet).
Pay by cell phone offers a lot of user convenience. You don't have to carry cash or change, you can add time from your phone, your phone can call or text you when your time is about to expire, and some systems allow you to call or text when you're done so the meter can stop running.
This requires no infrastructure other than signs giving the instructions for how to call in and pay. Multispace meters are expensive, which restricts the areas it can be used. Therefore, pay by phone is ideal for areas with lower traffic, or residential areas where neighbors would like to charge non-residents to park, but keep parking free for residents and therefore bringing in lower amounts of revenue.
When Donald Shoup, the parking guru and author of "The High Cost of Free Parking" last came to DC to speak at the National Building Museum, he got a chance to talk directly with the DDOT parking staff. Maybe it's a coincidence that DDOT is changing what they use to control parking from pay and display with manual occupancy counts to pay by space with occupancy sensors, which is better for implementing performance parking.
Dr. Shoup and I had lunch together with Mrs. Shoup soon after his meeting with DDOT, and we discussed the DDOT performance parking pilots. He said that part of the problem DDOT was having with the performance parking pilots was the manpower required to visit all of the parking meters to change the signs and programming when the rates change.
The new parking meter pilots show that DDOT is willing to experiment with a lot of different meter technologies at once. Some of these technologies are a perfect fit for easier implementation of performance parking, like pay-by-space including occupancy sensors. Hopefully, DDOT will use these technologies to learn about how people react to changes in parking pricing for implementation throughout the city.
I just had a great parking experience in downtown DC. Yes, re-read that sentence
The pay by phone system is damn easy. I set it up with a short phone call and paid for my 2 hours of parking in the same time it took the woman who parked just after me to find her change and put it in the meter. Granted, she had to go back to her car and root around the backseat to get the $4 in change, but that's half the hassle gone.
The brilliant move: sending me a text message when my meter is about to expire so I don't get caught by the enforcement officers. The annoying aspect is that your meter doesn't show time. It says "Expired" even after you pay. This is confusing, but Pay By Phone promises that the DC parking enforcement will know you've paid. Sadly, the next person who might get a free ride from your meter payment will not.
Verrus, the pay by phone operator, sent me a tweet in response to a question about the meter showing payment. Talk about customer service!
@wayan_vota your license plate and time are automatically displayed on a handheld device used by the parking enforcement officer.
Drivers parking at 700 meters around Dupont Circle, Union Station, and on select downtown streets will be able to pay for parking by phone starting Monday, April
17th 12th, DDOT announced.
To use the system, drivers will go to paybyphone.com ahead of time and register the car's license plate, a mobile phone number, and a credit card. When parking in an eligible space, they will then be able to call 888-510-PARK and enter a location code posted on signs. Parking enforcement officers will have access to this information on their handheld devices so they know not to ticket cars using pay by phone.
The system can also send a text message when time is about to expire, and the driver can call back to add more time remotely up to the maximum time limit allowed by that meter.
You can go to Verrus Mobile Technologies' paybyphone.com now or call 888-510-PARK (7275) and sign up for an account. 700 meters will support pay by phone in the initial pilot, around Dupont Circle, Union Station, and on I and K Streets and New York Avenue downtown. Update: Here are maps of the pilot streets for Dupont north and south of the circle, Union Station, and I and K.
If it works well, pay by phone will make parking a much less painful process. If a downtown garage charged $2 or even $5 per hour for parking, most drivers would find that remarkably cheap, but the $2 maximum meter rate in DC feels very burdensome when parking for two hours requires finding 16 quarters, even though grabbing a latte on the way out could cost just as much. Credit card meters are one solution, but pay by phone is even better.
Better yet, pay by phone could make it possible to meter residential streets for non-residents. In many neighborhoods, like Dupont Circle, some metered spaces remain available during busy times while the residential side streets are packed with restaurant-goers and the roads are filled with people circling for parking. Some neighborhoods, like the ballpark performance parking district, have addressed this problem by prohibiting non-resident parking on one side of the street, but at some times of the day that means that the resident side of the street is pretty empty.
Why not let people park on the resident-only side of the street, but for a premium? It could cost more than the meters, and enough to ensure that it doesn't completely fill up with non-residents, but if spaces are going begging and the residents aren't using them, charging something high is better than banning its use altogether.
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