Saturday, November 13, 2010

Evolving payment systems - parking meters

I was very pleased the other day when I discovered that South Granville, near my home in Vancouver, had replaced its old parking meters with new ones that take credit cards. I also just got back from San Francisco, where they seem to be making the exact same switch.

This is good. I hate having to have change and, with parking prices constantly increasing, you need to be carrying at least $10 in your car, which just provides an added incentive to those who would break into my car for a few bucks. So I do approve of the transition.

But I also have to wonder whether our parking meters have only caught up with yesterday's payment system, the plastic credit card. I don't mind paying with a Visa or Mastercard account, but do I really need to keep carry the plastic card. Shouldn't we be embracing the technologies of the next decade, which will allow payments through our wireless devices. And no, calling in to a number to pay for parking is not the "mobile" solution that I'm looking for, I'm thinking more along the lines of a simple parking app.

This takes me to my current pet peeve about our regional transit system's new contest to name their new payment card. They're making a big deal about rolling out a transit pass that other places have had for over a decade. But shouldn't we be past requiring people to carry an extra piece of plastic. Shouldn't our mobile devices be able to verify our identity, what we've paid for, where we should be allowed to go.

Maybe I'm asking too much of our transit systems and municipalities. But it seems to me that they should be asking what are the systems of the future, and how do we get there, not how do we embrace the recent past.

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