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Payphones a Costly Symbol of Yesteryear?

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Photo by sfxeric via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr

Photo by sfxeric via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr
Do you remember life before cellphones? Maybe you remember making plans to meet up with a friend and having to just sit and wait for them to show up since they didn't have a way to call you from the car or a tiny device in their pocket or purse. Maybe you remember the pager era, when friends would beep you and you would head off to search for a payphone and either plug in a pocketful of change or tap out a lengthy calling card number in order to retrieve your message.

Yeah...remember payphones?

Payphones are still around, but there are fewer and fewer of them in operation these days, and most major telephone companies like Verizon and AT&T have ceased running them. It was just announced that in Laguna Beach, "payphones will no longer be available in city beaches and parks after the city decided they cost too much to maintain," according to the OC Register.

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In fact, it would cost the city $10k a year just to run 11 payphones, so they've opted to just straight up remove them. How much was each phone making a year? An average of just $100, with the most-used phone at Main Beach pulling in over $600. "The least-used phone is near the tennis court in Alta Laguna Park, bringing in less than $1." (If calls are 35 cents that probably means it was used only 2-3 times the entire year.)

Some see the removal of payphones and the selling off their operations by major companies as "a response to the change in the public communications business." Some, however, see payphones as being viable, despite the dominance of the cellphone.

Need to find a payphone in LA? The Payphone Project is a website with a searchable listing that honors the "stories, pictures, phone numbers and news from payphones and public telephony."