Friday, May 4, 2012

Pay By Phone parking meters: History's Greatest Evil

The only thing worse than AIDS and terrorism is not having any change for the parking meter. That's why I thought the Pay By Phone meter was a breakthrough on the order of penicillin or the thermos. You know what I'm talking about, right? These things?

But like everything else, San Francisco managed to take a genius idea and fuck it up beyond all recognition.


You text the meter number (in this case, 44204130) and, I don't know, the last 4 digits of your Social to some number - say SFPARK - and the meter charge (absurdly, $3 an hour in some places) is automatically added to your cell phone bill. Total time expended: about 45 seconds, and now you're on your way to Hott Headzz to get your hair cut or to Delicafrozen to get a Buddha's hand froyo.


1. Call the 866 number.

2. If this is your first time calling, press the star key. Now listen to a little speech about how you're about to pay for parking with your cell phone. Thanks for the orientation session Pay by Phone, I was wondering why I was calling the number on the side of this parking meter.

3. Do you want to pay for parking by using your cell phone? Press 1. Or you can Press 2 to listen to some Terms and Conditions. If you press 2 here you're a special kind of Aspergers and I don't even know.

4. Now enter your 10 digit cell phone number. Do it FAST, because if you hesitate for more than about a second and a half, Impatient Irma comes on and says "Invalid response. Please try again." GIVE ME A FUCKING SECOND TO PULL UP THE GODDAM KEYPAD ON THIS IPHONE IRMA JESUS CHRIST.

5. Hey, just for the fuck of it, how about we make you create a 4-digit PIN now. HURRY HURRY HURRY ENTER YOUR PIN.

5. Now enter your credit card number. I hope you already have your credit card in your hand because if you don't start jamming numbers into your phone ASAP, Impatient Irma is back, wondering just what the fuck is taking you so long. Also, if you're doing this in the Tenderloin like I was, expect to have people slowing down as they pass you and staring at your credit card as you hold it up and type the numbers in. Oh and then the expiration date too of course.

6. Now the number on the side of the meter. I feel like we're getting somewhere now. Which is good, because I've been punching numbers into my goddam phone for a few minutes now.

This is the stage where I was unaccountably kicked out of the system and the call was terminated for no discernible reason and I had to start all over again. Hey, no biggie, that's cool because I'm super Zen about everything.

7. Now, how much time do you want? If you want anything less than 15 minutes you're a crazy person because the process of using the Pay By Phone system itself takes about 15 minutes.

Also, I don't even know how I did this, but I accidentally paid twice.

Happily, I see that a lot of meters in SF are now being switched over to take credit/debit cards, like FINALLY, and that's a good idea that actually makes sense and I'm glad.

(While I'm tangentially on the subject, WTF is the deal with the BART ticket machines? When you pay with a debit or credit card, you put your card in and it STARTS you at $20 and you have to push the little PING button over and over to make the amount come down. Isn't that totally backwards? Shouldn't it start at 0 and then you ping UP? I bet this confuses the shit out of tourists all the time. Maybe that's the idea.)

Have a good weekend, everybody!


Nikki said...

My favorite are the machines that tell you that they take credit/debit cards but actually only take SF Park cards which you can only buy at very select Walgreens and the SFMTA office (like hell I'm going there). You also can only buy them at the pre-determined denominatations of $20 and $50 and you can't refill it when it's empty. You have to go into about 20 Walgreens until you find one that carries them. I have no idea why they didn't just tie the meters to the Clipper card.

Tamagosan said...

And remember, the Port (= mainly Embarcadero) machines are different! THIS is exactly why we need single-payer parking. Get on it, Obama!

@NikkiL: Pretty sure my better half gets his parking cards online from MTA... Not sure of the details, but every time they come in the mail, he has to remind me that "No, I keep telling you, these are NOT refillable online. Don't you remember where we live?"

Generik said...

Don't the phone payments also include a surcharge for using their convenient service? (I initially typed "curcharge," and maybe that's more accurate.)

A friend of mine says he likes this new feature because he can lie in bed in the morning, dial up the meter he parked at the night before and not have to get up too early for his delicate sensibilities and go move his car or feed the meter. I might have to direct him to this post.

Nikki said...

@Tamagosan - you can order them online but they do charge you shipping and handling. If you're ordering a bunch then it's totally worth it but I was getting it for motorcycle meters which have a pretty low hourly rate and didn't want to order $200 of parking cards. Plus, I usually remembered that I needed a new one about a day before it would run out. Worst system ever.

Tamagosan said...

Ah, if they don't get you in the wash, they'll get you in the rinse.

Agreed: Worst system ever.

Rocco said...

this was funny. haha.

Jennie Lanics said...

I saw it in San Francisco have parking at very affordable prices
pro park monthly parking

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