They can't fit in your pocket and they are not considered "smart," which is why pay phones no longer have a home on Boulder's Pearl Street Mall.
Is this just another sign of the changing times? The phones disappeared when new information kiosks came in, according to Boulder Downtown and University Hill Management. "It's kind of like a cash register. There are just certain things where technology has just moved on," says Molly Winter, director of Downtown and University Hill Management and Parking Services for Boulder. "Everyone has a cell phone."
But even if "everyone" does have a cellphone, they don't always work. Batteries can be quickly drained, and it only takes one earth-shattering fall to send your life and cellphone crashing to the ground, rendering it useless. The list of weird events that can leave you cellphone-stranded goes on and on: The phone can be dropped in the toilet, stolen, left on restaurant table. And then what do you do?
"If you're out here on the mall at night, the stores are closed and you have an emergency. What is a person to do if they don't have a cellphone? Not everyone has a cellphone on them at all times," says Raelehe Johnson, a vendor of The Voice on the mall. "If they don't want to have pay phones, that is fine -- but they should put maybe callboxes like they have on the highways."
There are safety kiosks on the mall, Winter points out. And mall managers took the pay phones off the mall gradually, to see if any were still needed. "We had taken some out before because they just weren't being used," Winter says. "Finally, the final ones that were left were not being used and they were just not very attractive."
The last major makeover to Pearl Street was in 2001, but it's constantly being upgraded -- and the most recent change hung up the pay phones. "This is just part of the ongoing maintenance," Winter says of the mall update. "It's the center of our community -- kind of like the living room, a place where everyone's welcome."
New bricks have been laid to cover up the scars left behind when the phones were removed, but some of the vacated spots will not be empty for long. This summer, interactive information kiosks will be placed on the mall as part of a municipal bond projects.
"They have been designed but they have not been installed," says Winter. "We hope to install those some time in June. We have one we're going to install and see how it goes."
The kiosks will have maps, a list of businesses, information from the city and information from the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau. The interactive kiosk will be on the west end of the mall.
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And the payphones aren't gone for good. When they were taken out, Winter says, "The word got out and I got a couple of calls from people who, I guess, are history buffs about pay telephones and they wanted to know if they could buy them to be in a museum."