D.C. rolls out pay-by-phone parking meter system
By Justin Jouvenal,
Parking in the District? There’s an app for that.
Drivers will soon be able to use a cellphone to pay for any of the city’s almost 17,000 on-street, metered parking spots.
The system is one of a flurry of high-tech moves to overhaul the District’s aging meter network and address two perennial complaints of motorists: Meters are frequently broken, and hauling around fistfuls of quarters is a pain.
“The goal is to give people options,” said John Lisle, a District Department of Transportation spokesman.
A pay-by-mobile-phone pilot program is in place in Foggy Bottom, at Georgetown University Hospital and around Nationals ballpark. In June, DDOT will begin rolling it out at additional locations.
Here’s how it works: Drivers register their license plate numbers and credit card information online with Parkmobile, the city’s contractor for the program. Drivers can then use a mobile app or place a call to start a parking session when pulling into a spot. Drivers key in a zone number, the amount of meter time wanted and then go. Fifteen minutes before the meter expires, drivers will get a text message reminder and can add additional time.
The transaction appears in real-time on hand-held devices used by parking enforcement officers. The mobile app is available for the iPhone, Android and Blackberry, and drivers can register multiple license plates. Parkmobile officials said more than 100 cities, including New York and Boston, are using the system.
Some drivers saw it as a godsend.
“I always have my phone, but I don’t always have change for the meter,” Alexandria resident Stephen Brandon said, adding that he would use the app.
Dee Sampson, a D.C. driver who makes several stops a day for his job, said he wanted to see how well the technology worked before signing on.
“Just today, I was downloading an app that had a glitch — that’s often a problem with these things. You’re not always sure if something is going through,” he said.
Pay-by-phone is one of a handful of parking pilots that the city has given a test drive in the last year. DDOT has tried different iterations of pay-by-space and pay-by-license plate-number systems using coins, credit cards and bills. It’s even experimenting with embedding sensors in parking spots so drivers could digitally check to see if one is open, Lisle said.
Lisle said D.C. residents will also be seeing more multi-space meters. He said the city is seeking a vendor to install the machines as coin parking meters get old and are replaced around the city. He also said the city is looking into an in-car metering system.