Friday, 9 May 2008


nostalgia of pay and displayA quick zap to Cheltenham on Friday morning and the nostalgia of street parking with ordinary pay and display - coins and little tickets to put on the dashboard.

In Westminster now, unless its the weekend or after hours, the act of parking can trick unsuspecting irregulars with the dial up parking meters.

Its simple enough in theory.

The individual meters have been replaced with a monoblock unit for a number of bays and you buy a ticket for around 20p for 3 minutes or multiples thereof. Except the units all have mysterious faults and it is necessary to pay by phone instead.
Pay by phone"No problemo", I hear you cry. Well it isn't after the first time through the system.

The first time involves enrollment and the act of typing in about 25 numbers, at the end of which you get flipped to a real live operator who is there to take the money. The receipt is't a ticket, just a text message back to the phone. Oh, and an automatic text reminder x minutes before the end if you ask for it.

Its amusing in some areas with notoriously regularly broken meters (like behind Oxford Street) to watch people struggling their way through the system. The interesting thing about it is the difference compared with the act of feeding a meter.

There's a kind of coinic precision to the calculation about "how long will I stay here?" when its done whilst feeding the meter. Adding 20p and 50p at a time and watching the little clock go around. On the phone it becomes "Oh, say eight quids worth, please" (thats 2 hours in the middle zones).

Travel smart and use Oyster, of course.

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