Later this month, the four pay phones on the Pearl Street Mall will be going the way of the phonograph, the floppy disk and, well, the pay phone.
With most of its patrons on cell phones, the city is electing to remove the last remaining pay phone kiosks from the downtown Boulder mall, citing their lack of use.
"They aren't really useful anymore," said Molly Winter, director of Downtown and University Hill Management and Parking Services for the city. "We had a lot of them taken out a while ago and it's primarily because everyone now has cell phones."
The city had signed a contract with an independent company to have the pay phones installed but is now terminating the contract. Winter said she didn't know precisely how much revenue the city got from pay phone use but said it was "miniscule."
"They're just not used anymore," she said.
Rob Mess works the Fast Eddie's World Famous Hot Dogs cart on the Pearl Street Mall, and is positioned right in front of a pay phone near 13th Street, and said he wasn't surprised the phones were being taken out.
"It's about time for them to go," he said. "I can think of one person who's used that pay phone in the last year off the top of my head."
Mess said when he was working at an Italian ice cream cart on the Pearl Street Mall eight years ago more people used the phones, but even then it was mainly transients.
While sitting next to one of the pay phones near Broadway, Jared Haines said he has never once used the pay phone and rarely sees anyone else use them either.
"It actually costs more money to use the pay phones than to just get a cell phone," he said. "I mean, they could be used in an emergency, but otherwise not really."
In addition to not being used, Winter said the neglected phones no longer fit in with the visual theme of the mall.
"They're not necessarily attractive in their current form," Winter said. "They don't add to the mall's ambiance."
Winter said the phones will be removed by a private contractor, though a specific removal date has not been set. The city does hope to have the phones out by May, when they plan to install a touch-screen kiosk on the western end of the walking mall.
The kiosk will be interactive and feature real-time maps of the mall as well as information from the city, the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau and Downtown Boulder Inc.
"It's a way to get information on what's going on, if you want to go shopping or see what's happening in the rest of the city and across the community," Winter said. "It's a great resource for both citizens of Boulder as well as visitors."
The city hopes to also have the kiosk installed by May. But Haines said with the pay phones gone, he would like to see some other technological advances down on Pearl Street, like additional Wifi spots.
"That would be really useful," he said, pointing out most people are either on smart phones, tablets or laptops.
As for pay phones in the rest of Boulder? The city doesn't have numbers, and Qwest -- which installs most of the phones in the city -- did not return calls asking for numbers Friday.
South-Boulder resident Crystal Hendry might be one of the few remaining people in Boulder who uses its pay phones. She has a cell phone, but says she still uses pay phones on occasion not out of necessity, but because she knows she may not get many more chances to do so.
"I grew up with them," she said. "So I keep an eye out for them and I know where they are throughout the town. The other day I was up at Chautauqua and had some change in my pocket so I just called my parents."
The 40-something mother of three said her kids sometimes play with a pay phone outside of the King Soopers off Table Mesa and push the buttons not knowing what it is they were playing with.
"They're just really not necessary anymore, and it makes me a little sad," she said. "It was a part of my everyday life and it's going to be gone, like so many other things. But they had their moment."
She admitted she has not often used the Pearl Street Mall pay phones, saying, "I don't get down there much."
Mess also said he thinks pay phones will eventually become a thing of the past.
"It does feel like that's the way things are going," he said. "At places like rest stops on highways it would be good to have one just in case your car dies and your phone doesn't have power.
"But on the Pearl Street Mall? Nobody uses it."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or firstname.lastname@example.org. ___