In Washington, D.C., the city parking nightmare has residents clamoring for change. Many objected when the parking rates went up from $1 to $2 an hour last year, and backlash has been building against Mayor Adrian Fenty's recent proposal to increase parking fees even more (to $3 an hour in some areas) to help close budget gaps.

But perhaps no complaints rang louder than those from residents who had to deal with the city's raggedy, old coin-fed parking meters. Washington, D.C., has more than 12,000 single-space meters, most of which have been around for more than a decade. And in fiscal 2009, drivers who were sick of battling broken meters and carrying coins complained to the city an amazing 142,000 times, according to Washington, D.C.'s District Department of Transportation (DDOT). In the past few months, the DDOT has been exploring a number of innovative technological advances in parking management, such as solar-powered meters and in-car metering systems.

"The biggest complaint that we receive from a customer service standpoint is about parking meters," said John Lisle, spokesman for the DDOT. "A lot of that is because our inventory for single-space meters is outdated. We have been in the process of replacing them. We're really trying different methods to improve the parking experience for residents and motorists in the city."

The latest pilot is a pay-by-phone parking program, which launched Monday, April 12. To enroll in the program, drivers must set up a free account at (or call 888-510-PARK) and provide their mobile phone number, license plate and credit card number. Once signed up, the driver pays to park by calling the toll-free number, entering the location and desired time, and the total will be charged to the credit card.

Drivers can choose to set up text message alerts when time is winding down, or call from any phone to add meter time. DDOT launched this cashless payment option as a three-month pilot at 700 parking spaces, with service provided by Verrus Mobile Technologies.

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Russell Nichols  |  Staff Writer