Yesterday, when we went to get my passport photos taken, we had to park in one of the side-streets near the town. It's many months since I have been there, so I started looking for change in my purse, expecting to have to pay for a parking meter.
I was a little startled to see this, which at first glance just looked like an advert:
But Richard explained that parking meters in Cyprus are being superseded by parking-by-phone. Not being very technologically minded this was a little beyond my comprehension. Apparently he had to send a text message (SMS) to a certain number, giving the parking slot, the car number plate, and the amount of time we wanted to park. Since half an hour cost 30c and an hour 60c, we thought half an hour would be sufficient.
How, I wondered, did we actually PAY for the parking?
It seems that just making the call effectively deducts money from the phone contract or credit.
So, I asked, how does a traffic warden know that we've paid? Assuming they still have something a old-fashioned as traffic wardens, that is...
Apparently the call puts details on a database somewhere. The traffic warden would have access to it. And the phone had a reply text, confirming the slot.
It all seemed rather like a conjuring trick to me, but Richard said he'd done it before and that it was a good idea. I could see that it would stop the problem of vandalised parking meters, and would also stop people from 'giving' their unused time to other people since the car registration is noted.
Anyway, we went to get my photos done, and had pretty much forgotten about the parking meter, when a text message arrived on Richard's phone, reminding him that his parking slot expired in ten minutes. We were still waiting for the prints at that stage. I wondered if he would have to go and move the car...
But no. He simply sent another text message, booking another 30 minutes. No need to return to the car, no worries about running out of time. And the cost is exactly the same as it would have been if we had booked an hour in the first place. Suddenly I could understand that it's rather a good system.
The only obvious drawback appears to be that some drivers do not own mobile phones.. although this would be very unusual in Cyprus.
I wonder if this system is now in place in the rest of the world...?