Every initiative that aims to reduce the need for me to carry coins around, scores points with me immediately. Especially if it’s about paying for a parking ticket in cities. When I lived in Amsterdam a few years ago (is it really more than five already?), I used Parkline, a service that allows you to pay for parking via SMS. When you are a registered user, you get a card to display behind your windscreen, which is linked to your mobile number and your license plate. If you park your car in an area where you have to pay, you simply send a text to switch paying on, and when you leave you send an SMS to switch it off. You pay per minute, for as long as you have parked. No more worries about being back in time, or finding a fine on your car because you are ten minutes late. Or: finding you only have a Euro coin with you, while all you need is to pay 50 cents, because you only have a short errand to run. Surely, the Parkline service costs a bit in membership (10 Euro registration, and 2,50 per month), but that’s a low fee, and easy to earn back.
Anyway, when I heard that Oberbürgemeister Elbers had launched a pilot for paying for parking via SMS in Düsseldorf last week, I was happy. This sounds like something great, and I had to see and test it for myself. The system is super simple to use: you find a spot to park your car, check at the pay-machine which number you have to use, and send an SMS with your license plate to that number. If you don’t add anything else to the message, you will be registered (and charged) for 1 hour. You can influence that by adding a dot and a number after your license plate. For example ‘.30’ for 30 minutes. You can pay in increments of 15 minutes, with a maximum of the limit of the allowed parking time. In Düsseldorf, as in many cities, you can only park for a limited amount of time in certain areas. The ease of use is almost phenomenal. On top of that, you can also download the app, which works nicely. The amounts get charged to your mobile phone subscription, so I reckon that tourists from other countries won’t be able to use the service.