Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Public Parking in Israel: A Primer

A recent NY Times article about new parking technology installed in Santa Monica noted that the new meters that the city just installed (which can take credit cards) know when a car is parked in a space, and then zero out the meter when the car leaves that space. The city claims that "it's not about the money," but the article ends with a quote from a UCLA parking professor who said,
“I don’t see how this increases turnover — it just makes sure they get everyone to pay and they know how much they are getting,” said Professor Shoup, who is widely considered the intelligent parking guru. “Anytime someone says something isn’t about money, it’s about money.”
Of course it's about the money. It's about preventing people from finding a meter with extra time, which is always a nice little bonus if you luck out in this manner. It'll never happen in Santa Monica, though.

This got me thinking about just how advanced the parking situation has gotten here in Israel. Before I moved here, I always found parking here confusing. There are no meters, so how are you supposed to pay? I knew that you had to buy these little slips of paper and put them somewhere, but found the whole thing a bit intimidating. In fact, it's not that confusing at all, if you just know the rules and how to pay.

Where to Park

On the street, there are basically two colors: red and white strips (don't park here), and blue and white stripes (park here and pay). If you're lucky enough to find a street curb that hasn't been painted, it's free parking!

How to Pay
There are no parking meters in much of the country, which makes a great deal of sense. Cars don't necessarily fit exactly between meters, which might cause a real waste of space. I have vivid memories of NYC parking tickets because I parked too far away from the meter (or something like that). There are a number of ways to pay:

1. Coin: Look for a small machine under a parking sign. Put in the appropriate amount of money, and the machine will then spit out a ticket, which you put somewhere on your dashboard that's visible. That's it. The problem with these machines is that they're not always close by, and often broken or missing, which is annoying. But there are other, much better options.

2. By Electronic Meter: In every post office, you can buy a little meter called EasyPark that you keep in your car and use to pay for parking. Simply turn it on when you park, and off when you get back to your car.



3. By Phone or App: You can register your car and credit card with Pango so that you then call the number (*4500) to begin paying and call it again when you leave. Or, simply download the free Pango app to your iPhone or Android phone, and click to begin paying when you park, and then click again to end payment when you leave.
If you use #3 or #4 - don't worry. The parking police have little computers connected to the network, so they know if you've paid or not.

All of this seems both simple, fair and efficient. The system maximizes the amount of space used on the street while allowing drivers to only pay for the time that they park, and not have to guess how much time they'll actually need, or run back to the meter to add more money.