Verrus, the best thing since parking


I have to admit, the first time I only did it because I was curious. (How many confessionals start this way?) The next several times were because I found out a clerical error had resulted in a rate mismatch so it was cheaper than the real thing. And easier. And far quicker. And then I was hooked.

No, not a plug for the Cobalt Motor Inn, though it easily could be. I’m talking about Verrus [link], the pay-by-phone parking system rolled out throughout the Vancouver area the last couple of years.

“Sure, I’ve seen that on the meters, but never tried it,” friends often concede. “Does it actually work?”

I think it’s truly a case of inadequate marketing content. The little ad copy I’ve seen sells it as a way not to have to have a pocketful of change on you all the time. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The first time you use it (unless you previously setup an account through their website) it’s admittedly a bit of a pain — typing lengthy credit card and license plate information through a phone touchpad is nobody’s idea of fun. But what most people don’t realize is that (again like the Cobalt, I assume) it only hurts the first time, and you only have to go through that once.

After that, Verrus recognizes your account via Caller ID, and you’re just a few quick button pushes away from freedom (to tell them which lot/meter number, and how many hours). What’s this mean?

1. No more long walk to the payment machine (which is invariably in the farthest corner away from the only empty parking spot in the whole Impark lot), and, even better, no more second trip back to your car with the little receipt. (And you’re saving a tree, too, if you look at it that way).

2. As mentioned before, no need for a Scrooge McDuck pile of change if you’re parking for more than 15 minutes downtown, but even better,

3. No guessing how many minutes worth of parking to buy (usually erring on the side of paying them way too much), and then spending your entire visit wondering, “Is the meter about to run out? What time is it?” Why? Because…

4. Verrus sends a handy little text message to your phone when your parking is about to run out, and if you want to extend your parking, you can do it right there from your phone. Nothing spoils the mood of a romantic dinner like an unsightly grooming problem, or constant trips back to the parking meter. No more. “Who was that message from?” “My parking assistant,” you can answer, smugly. “I instructed him to extend our stay. If you have no objections, of course.” Which also implies…

5. No more panic at 9:30am at work when you realized you forgot to pay for your parking. Stuck in a meeting which would be slightly disrupted by you suddenly jumping up, screaming, and running out to the parking lot to stop the tow truck just in time? No worries. Simply dial up the Verrus number, enter the four digit code for the lot (which hopefully you’ve memorized if it’s really your workplace), punch the number of hours on the keypad, and then watch out the office window at the tow truck driver’s mystified face as he enters your license into his computer and finds that, no, your car has Special Authorization to be there. Curses, foiled again.

Not to mention, the system seems now to be live on most Vancouver area parking metres, and just about every Impark lot in the GVRD. Some other vendors are supported as well. And if you’re into that sort of thing (statistics junkies unite) you can log into their website and see your complete parking history.

Sure, there’s a downside: There seems to be a convenience fee for some lots ($0.35 for the one near my work), and they keep your credit card number on file, if you’re paranoid about that kind of thing (and yes, a credit card is required – jamming quarters into that crack in your phone handset doesn’t seem to work). I’m also not sure about the minimum — if you’re parking less than an hour I think it makes you select an hour or more, but for those quickies there’s still the pocket change option.

At any rate, anything to do with fines or fees is normally a little frightening, or annoying at best, but the Verrus system seems to be one of those few municipal government partnerships which was truly A Good Idea.

2 Comments so far

  1. ron (unregistered) on July 27th, 2007 @ 3:42 pm

    I might be concerned about parking costs on my credit card statement – I’ve had fraudulent parking fees on my statements that I’ve had to reverse – esp. since it is hard to keep track of those things.
    Another question would be the scope of the credit card authorization – not an issue with the City, but for Impark, would your use of the system authorize Impark to deduct a fine from your credit card automatically? i.e. if you didn’t hear your phone ring, didn’t renew and got dinged with a fine.

  2. Moogs (unregistered) on August 10th, 2007 @ 8:57 am

    Did the fraudulent fees come through using pay by phone? How did you deal with them? I understand Verrus doesn’t store personal information on line. Only offline.

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