Do you remember the last time you used a phone booth? A long time ago. How about a parking meter? Exactly. They are fundamentally the same thing – a machine that you insert money into to pay for a service. Why is it that one of them died out a long time ago, but the other one is still alive and well?

The answer is really simple. Phone booths have been replaced by solutions far better and effective. The parking meter hasn’t.

It’s the consumer that chooses the winner

The reason for the disappearance of phone booths becomes evident when looking at the user experience.

Phone booth vs mobile experience

Introducing the mobile phone, it truly revolutionized the user experience. Just consider the difference between phone booth and mobile usage:

Parking meter user experience

See? That decrease in steps is worth gold. And that’s one major reason that the mobile revolutionized the phone industry.

Parking meter vs SMS payment

Now, how about the incorporation of technological innovations into parking payments? They have been made, so why have they not yielded any sensible results?

For 15 years, city administrators have been trying to replace parking meters with a new and improved way of collecting parking fees. The most prominent new way has been SMS payment.

SMS parking payment user experience

Now you can clearly see that there are, yes indeed, more steps with the SMS payment. So there. The new way isn’t easier. And the parking meter lives.

Survival of the fitt.. most usable

Adopting new technology for the use of people, it needs to bring about a positive change. Parking meter is still around because it works the best. Not because it’s retro and adorable.

The need is for new solutions is there for sure – technology is considered the No 1. desired change in the industry. Just take a look at the results of the 2013 survey conducted with different parking associations:

Parking technology improvement

The change, however, starts with consumers, with people. They are the single most honest, brutal and valuable feedback on solutions that actually work.

So you got rid of phone booths and you want to get rid of parking meters too, but it doesn’t seem to be happening? Consider your own parking experiences and the steps that are involved, and the things you appreciate. It’s not tech for the sake of tech. It’s the usability, easiness and time-saving it brings. There’s still a lot of waiting to be removed from the process of parking – just take another look at the illustrations above.

There can be, and there are better solutions, and when those are introduced they will be welcomed with open arms. Why? Because they work.

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Main photo by “Derek Key” from Flickr /CC