Coming Soon: Feed Your Meter By Cell Phone

No change for the meter? There’s an app for that—and traffic czar Jim Travers is trying to bring it to New Haven.

Travers spent part of Wednesday in a meeting with Parkmobile, an Atlanta-based company with a system that allows people to use their cellphones to pay for parking in metered spaces. Click the play arrow to watch a movie about Parkmobile’s system.

Parkmobile is the second company Travers has spoken with about the service, he said. The conversations are just beginning; Travers said he couldn’t estimate when New Haven might have the system in place.

The idea is to give people more options to pay for parking, to increase meter collections and decrease ticketing, Travers said. New Haven already has a 51 percent pay-by-plastic rate at its meters, since many of them began accepting credit cards two years ago .

“We want to create a model that has more options available,” Travers said. Most frustration with parking in the city is not because of the rate of $1.50 per hour, but “because you want to pay and you can’t because you don’t have coins.”

Thomas MacMillan File PhotoTravers (pictured) explained how a pay-by-cell system would work:

“We would put a sticker on every meter,” he said. The sticker would give each meter a number, which would appear along with a QR code and a 1-800 telephone number that people could scan or call, respectively. Smartphone users could download an app that would register their car or cars with the system. Regular cell phone users could call and register by punching in their credit card number and license plate number.

Once you’re registered, you would either call the number or fire up the app to tell the system what meter you’re parking at, how much time you want, and which of your many cars you’re driving. Then you go off to shop or eat.

The meter wouldn’t show that the space is paid for. The old mechanical meters have no way of connecting to the internet. The new credit card meters do, for checking credit cards, but it would drain their batteries too quickly to hook them up to the pay-by-cell system.

When a parking meter enforcement officer comes up and sees your car parked by a meter that seems to be expired, he would punch the meter number into his handheld device to check if you paid by cell phone.

‘What I really love about it is, say I’ve paid for an hour and I’m in ABC restaurant and the service is incredibly slow, I’ll get a text message on my phone that my meter is about to expire,” Travers said. You could then use the app or the toll-free line to add more time to the meter. By cell phone, you wouldn’t be able to add more than the hourly limit for parking at that meter.

“We continue to look for ways that we can offer more payment options for people,” Travers said. “If we can get more people to pay [at the meter versus in parking tickets], I’m happy with that. ... I want our meter revenue to increase faster than the rate of ticket writing.”

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posted by: Yair on March 1, 2013  1:22am

Sounds much better than Parcxmart, which has been kind of a bust. However, I just looked up Parkmobile on the web and in several of their other locations they charge the user (i.e. the driver) a per-transaction fee of about 25 cents. That strikes me as a pretty exorbitant increase in parking costs.

I would expect that New Haven should negotiate an arrangement where the fees are absorbed by the city and not the driver. Without that, this seems like a mistake.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on March 1, 2013  10:53am

Please tell the traffic czar that the new meters are a failure.
In some locations they are too high for anyone to read the instructions. Try responding in the dark or when it’s raining. They are impossible.
Besides being too costly, they have become another urban annoyance in the name of funding.
If the goal were to irritate people, make them feel gouged and stressed, congratulations on this successful change.

posted by: TJSNewHaven on March 1, 2013  3:17pm

I’ve used Parkmobile down at Myrtle Beach and it was really simple. I downloaded the app, put in my meter number and I was good to go. However, I agree with Yair, I would rather just put my credit card in the meter than pay an additional service fee. I think Parkmobile would be a great added payment method but not if it’s going to cost more - in that case I would just stick with using my credit card. I hope the city doesn’t invest a lot of money in this technology if that’s the case.

@Dwightstreeter - no one hates meter maids more than me, no one, and I’ve had many conversations with Jim Travers. Keep in mind that he doesn’t design these meters. These new meters are absolutely great compared to the old meters. I never have change on me so I will gladly use my credit card. I agree that they are difficult to use sometimes, especially in rain or snow, but they are still a huge improvement over the old meters. Lastly, Jim Travers has done a really great job at doing kind of a crappy job (I don’t think I would want his job) - yes he does run the parking meters and towing which none of us like, but unfortunately meters are a necessary evil in a city and he’s actually willing to talk to small businesses and will often do whatever he can to help. I didn’t always think so fondly of him but I believe that Jim Travers actually has the best interest of New Haven and it’s residents in mind.