Drivers can use cellphones to pay D.C.'s new parking meters

By Ashley Halsey III
Saturday, April 10, 2010

Once, a penny was plenty, then came a nickel and dime. For quite a while, only a quarter would do, but now a piece of plastic or a cellphone will as well.

Feed the parking meter, that is.

Just a few months after the introduction of meters that accept credit cards, the District is taking another technological leap forward with meters that can be paid by cellphone.

Both come as a relief to District parkers who have sagged under the weight of quarters as meters continue to demand more each hour. It could also save them from parking tickets: The new cellphone service can send a text message alert when time is about to expire.

The cellphone option starts Monday at 700 spaces in three parts of downtown: Union Station, Dupont Circle and the K Street-I Street-New York Avenue NW area.

Here's how it works:

Sign up online at http://paybyhttp://http://phone.http://http://comor by calling 1-888-510-7275. You must provide a cellphone number, credit card number and the license number of the car or cars (up to nine) you plan to park.

Once the account is activated, you call in when you're parked in a cellphone space, tap in your registered cellphone number, the location of the spot (designated on the meter) and the number of minutes your vehicle will be there.

If you linger over lunch, the meter will tell your phone that time is running out, and you can add more time without getting up from the table -- provided you haven't exceeded the maximum time allowed.

When the ticket writer strolls up, his handheld device will indicate your status.

The parking charges will bill directly to your credit card. Drivers can log on to the Web site to view a complete parking history.

The technology is new to Washington but is in use elsewhere around the world, including in the lots at London's Wembley Stadium. The District contracted for it with Verrus Mobile Technologies.

"No one likes to carry a lot of change, but almost everyone has a cellphone, and all it takes is one call to pay for a meter," said Gabe Klein, director of the District Department of Transportation.

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