Parking garages are vertical Thunderdomes.
They’re all designed by some post-apocalyptic engineer, whose remaining goal in life is to ruin your day and destroy your car.
- The confusing layout
- The innumerable cement columns
- Lots of blind spots
- And those razor-thin parking spaces
And if it’s a parking garage next to a train station, add in the reality that there’s probably going to be only one spot left for the seven cars trolling the murky wasteland.
Now, to really lock in a stressful parking experience, make sure you’re rushing to catch a train. That means you’re running late, AND now you’ve also got to pay for your parking after besting Master Blaster for the last parking space.
Welcome to my parking gauntlet I’ve recently discovered on my new commute.
The Outsider is Never Welcome
The problem happens when I drive to a garage in a town where I’m technically an ‘outsider.’
And without a resident sticker, I only have access to a fraction of the spaces.
In fact, there are only a handful designated for ‘strangers’ on the very top of this seven-story structure.
So every time I enter the parking garage, I feel like I’m James Bond driving vertically to the roof to find my spot.
Beyond the anxiety of having to replicate a scene out of a high-speed car chase movie, this extra travel distance tacks on precious time to my commute. And when you’ve got a train to catch, that’s usually a problem.
Now add in one final step before you’re free to sprint to the platform to catch your oncoming train:
- You need to pay for your parking at an automated kiosk.
Yes, gone are the more civilized days of taking care of this business transaction on the way out of the garage.
And if there’s a line to pay at the machine, you can kiss your first morning meeting goodbye.
I’ll Be Back
Thankfully, this is not my every-day commute, but I now have to go through this parking dance frequently enough to welcome some help wherever I can find it. (And please don’t ask, “Why don’t you just leave your house five minutes earlier?”)
The other day, I found my parking salvation in the form of an institutional-looking sign posted right next to the payment kiosks…
As I walked by, it said, “Lines too long?”
I looked around…
Nobody else was there.
So I ignored the remaining words on its weathered, metallic surface.
But my train was due to arrive in five minutes, and I still had to navigate the
Fortunately, three minutes later I was paid up, but really huffing to catch my train.
As it pulled out of the station, I sat back, perspiring in my seat, and decided to check out that eerie sign again when I returned.
Pay by Smartphone
Later that day, I walked back up to the Guardian of Forever.
It was like the deteriorating sign had been waiting for centuries to impart its wisdom on someone.
I focused on the rest of the crumbling words…
Its simple message promoted the wonders of paying for your parking fee via your phone.
(The service was aptly named PayByPhone.)
I had seen this kind of thing before, but had never taken the time to try it out.
Plus I wasn’t sure if I really trusted an automated phone call to pay for my parking.
(I imagine this fear is entirely unfounded.)
But tucked away on the bottom edge of the sign, almost as an afterthought, was the URL – ‘paybyphone.com.’
Wait a minute… what’s this?
Web functionality, too?
And then I also noticed the words, “Add Time Remotely.”
You don’t have to rush back to the garage if you’re running an hour late?
Now that could be really useful…
So later that evening, I jumped onto my computer and navigated to paybyphone.com to check it all out.
It was time to alter my future history…
The PayByPhone App
PayByPhone has really grown out of a phone call-based service.
Once you sign up online, you can pay using your smartphone via text or by using its mobile website- m.paybyphone.com.
And then I saw it… a PayByPhone app for my iPhone.
(Android and BlackBerry too)
And it was at this moment I actually think I heard angels singing.
How cool is this?!!!
The app easily lets you type in your garage and parking space numbers, and then it emails you the receipt for your parking fee.
This is a no brainer!!
So I quickly signed up for my own account, which does includes handing over your credit card and license plate numbers.
(The PayByPhone system tracks your payment through your license plate. So when Judge Dredd walks by, his ‘connected’ handheld device will display that you’ve paid up.)
In less time than it normally takes me to sprint, pull a ligament, and then limp to the train, I was prepared to face my next parking challenge… invigorated with my speedy PayByPhone shortcut.
The Best 35 Cents I Ever Spent
So where’s the catch?
Well, PayByPhone has no subscription fee.
Though there could be service charges if you choose to receive text reminders that your parking ‘session’ is due to expire.
(another nifty feature)
And yes, in some cities, there’s a per-transaction service fee…
(35 cents for me… but aren’t a few pennies worth the peace of mind you won’t miss your train?)
The only real downside I see to using PayByPhone is it isn’t universal.
The service lists only 39 cities in the United States.
PayByPhone is also in Canada, the UK and Europe, bringing its reach to over 150 cities.
And it just took over 155,000 parking spaces in Paris.
(Vive La France!)
There are other companies like PayByPhone out there in other communities.
So if you come across one, I highly recommend you check it out.
No More Bad Parking Karma
I know I don’t have the data to back up what I’m about to say, but theoretically, paying for your future parking garage costs using this mobile payment technology will…
- Save you up to an hour each day (estimated waiting time for the next train)
- And return years to your life span (no more commuting stress over bad parking karma…)
And as a Road Warrior, who’s now graduated to Parking Warrior,
I say, “Amen to that!!”