URBANA – Out of change for the parking meter? Now you can phone it in.
The University of Illinois is starting a test on 200 cell phone-activated meters, said Andy Blacker, a spokesman for the UI's Facilities and Services department.
The trial is expected to last three months, Blacker said, and if successful, will become a permanent feature in the Urbana campus' lots.
"I'm expecting it will be utilized a lot," Blacker said.
Blacker said the meters would be particularly convenient for people who don't carry a lot of change and don't have the parking keys available for Champaign, Urbana and UI meters.
"It's a really nice alternative to have to plug coins in or even using a cash key. You dial into the number we have arranged, and sign up for a free online account," he said.
Customers can enter up to nine different license plates, as well as credit card and cell phone numbers.
"All the (equipped) meters will have a sign. You dial a number on the sign, toll-free; it will read your cell phone and you enter a pin code, You don't have to enter your credit card number or license number again," he said.
Blacker said the meters will automatically charge customers' credit cards the standard UI parking rate of 75 cents an hour, plus a 35-cent convenience fee per transaction, which goes to Verrus, the company that makes the meters.
"If it saves you a $10 or $15 parking ticket, it's easily worth the 35-cent fee," Blacker said.
If you've put two hours into the meter and your meeting runs long, you can dial that number again and extend your payment.
To use the service, customers create a free Verrus account with cell phone number, license plate number and a credit card. When ready to park at a designated Pay By Phone metered space, they place a call to the Verrus system and enter the requested information, including how long they wish to park. Customers may also sign up to receive text message reminders before meter time expires and can extend the parking session by calling the system from anywhere.
Whenever time is added to a meter with Pay By Phone, the convenience fee is charged.
For more details and locations, see http://www.parking.Illinois.edu