Mayor Newsom today announced that the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is instituting a pay by cell phone pilot project for San Francisco's parking meters. The program, which began on September 10, 2007, will last for 90 days.

"Feeding your parking meter with a cell-phone is a no-brainer," said Mayor Newsom. "Other cities around the world already use this technology, so there's no reason for us to not give our residents the same advantage."

With a pay by cell phone system, drivers can call a local or toll-free phone number posted on a meter to set up their initial customer account. During this initial set up, drivers will be asked to provide a credit card number.

After an account is established, the driver's cell phone number will be automatically linked with their account, and they can begin to pay for meter time with their cell phone by entering the eight digit meter number and the amount of time they need. They will also receive a text message reminder before time runs out and can add more time (up to the time limit) without having to return to the meter.

During the pilot project, a driver must set up a separate account in each test area. For example, a driver that has established an account with Verrus Mobile Technologies, Inc. for the 8th Avenue parking lot in the Inner Richmond will have to establish a new account with Zipidy, Inc. when they park in the Pierce Street lot in the Marina. This allows the SFMTA to evaluate and compare multiple technologies at the same time.

SFMTA will also be evaluating the various methods used by companies to charge fees to drivers for the pay-by-cell phone service. One company will charge a $0.35 per transaction customer service fee, one company will charge a $5.00 per month user fee, and one company will provide the service for free.

Services will be provided by three different companies that handles three different areas within San Francisco.

To check the parking status of each space, an Enforcement Officer monitors each meter with a wireless handheld ticketing device. The handheld device receives real-time data from a server at an off-site location, which signals to the Enforcement Officer whether a space is paid or not.   The technology also allows DPT Administration to view which parking spaces are paid or not paid in real-time through the Internet.
 

During this 90-day pilot period, SFMTA will be collecting customer comments on the new technology through a phone number displayed on the pay stations: (415) 503-2060.