Pay Phones on Their Way Out

Did you know that, according to FCC statistics, the number of pay phones in the United States has dropped from 2, 121, 526 in 1999 to 1, 006, 802 in 2006? That’s a decline of nearly 53% in just seven years, presumably due to increased adoption of cell phones.

The last time I used a pay phone was about two and a half years ago. I was travelling, my wife was pregnant with Son #4, and I forgot my cell phone in my hotel room. I therefore had to use a pay phone to check in at lunch time.

Before that? It was probably the winter of 2001 when I lost my cell phone while traveling (on my way to a job interview, no less) and had to call my wife from Chicago’s Midway Airport to get her to follow up with Sprint while I ran for my next flight.

14 Responses to “Pay Phones on Their Way Out”

  1. Anonymous

    Crazy as it sounds, I still use a pager! They are extremely reliable and will reach you where cell phone signals won’t dare go. I have a cell phone but when it goes straight to voice mail, folks know to call the pager. I used to return all my pager calls via a pay phone…those were the good old days I guess.

  2. Anonymous

    Your parents using the pay phone across the street ranks with the 60’s sitcom Green Acres where Oliver had to climb the telephone pole to answer the phone. One of my favorite parts of the show.

  3. Anonymous

    In the mid-80s, my folks didn’t have a home phone, they just used the pay-phone across the street, if anyone wanted to get in touch, they knew to call between a certain time period when they would be at the pay phone.


    On a related note, pagers are disappearing in hospitals too, cell phones or an in-hospital voice-paging system (vocera.)

    What ever happened to the good old days? (“Paging Doctor Johnson, Doctor Johnson, please contact the Pathology Lab.”

  4. Anonymous

    If you don’t have a wireless, there is always someone around who will let you use their phone. The problem is, no one memorizes phone numbers anymore – they are all programmed into the phones.

  5. Anonymous

    I used pay phones quite a bit in highschool and college, having no other way to “phone home” (for rides when in HS, to check in with parents while in college). I got a cellphone about 4 years ago when I was almost done with college, I don’t think I’ve used a pay phone since.

    I think it’s a shame they’re disappearing, though. It’s making it nearly impossible for teenagers to phone home unless their parents shell out for a cell phone.

  6. Anonymous

    As an employee of a huge telecom company, I’ve seen the fluctuation of pay phone usage. Obviously the number of pay phones is decreasing. Did you know that the FCC mandates a minimum number of pay phones (2) for each serving office? Pretty easy to do, even though they are not profitable. Many pay phones disappeared due to theft (people stealing the copper wires, aluminum sides, etc.). I actually own an older payphone booth with wood sides. The other technology that is diminishing is pagers. Very few people have them any more, as they too are being replaced by cell phones.

  7. Anonymous

    I do use them in Europe. The roaming charges are pretty expensive and so are the phones in the hotels. But with pre-paid cards they sell, you can call the US for pennies a minute.

  8. Anonymous

    In the last 3 months, in my town (5k people) I have seen 5 installed at various gas stations/stores.

    I’m glad too. I have never owned a cell phone and plan never to. I rank them with car payments and goats as money pits. But that is my opinion.

  9. Anonymous

    There are many times when I would have used a pay phone, but whenever I need one they are never around. I haven’t SEEN a pay phone in years. They were getting pretty expensive, too.

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