Most San Francisco drivers know how important “parking karma” can be in a city with far fewer spaces than cars, plus the threat of $65 tickets if fares run dry. But now in addition to their cosmic positioning on the parking spectrum, drivers can also rely on new technology that allows them to feed meters remotely with their cellphones.
A gaggle of city officials joined Mayor Ed Lee in the Castro neighborhood Wednesday to unveil the new “PayByPhone” system, set to be used on all of The City’s 30,000 metered parking spaces by April.
A sticker containing a microchip will be affixed to meters for drivers to scan with their smartphones, or they can use the meter number to activate the space with the free PayByPhone application. Users of more basic cellphones can call a number to pay for their space. When the meter time runs down to five minutes, a text is sent warning drivers to re-up the fare.
Each transaction, including re-ups of the fare, will cost 45 cents. That money goes to the private company that operates PayByPhone — Vancouver, Canada-based Verrus Mobile Technologies.
San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency executive director Ed Reiskin noted that the alternative of a $55 ticket — and $65 downtown — is much worse. “I think it’s 45 cents well spent.”
Time limits on meters will still be imposed, so the remote technology would not allow users to re-up their fare after a 90-minute maximum, for example.
The digital screens of most meters are not integrated with the sticker chip, so some will still display a flashing “expired” warning, even if it’s fed with the service. But Reiskin said the electronic devices used by meter enforcers will recognize when drivers have utilized the service to pay for their spot.
Officials from Verrus said San Francisco will represent the largest single market for the system, which is already available on a smaller scale in other U.S. cities, along with London and Paris.
30,000 Parking meters citywide
45 Cents per PayByPhone transaction (including re-upping meters)
$55 Standard parking ticket in San Francisco
$65 Downtown parking ticket