Council to Vote: Cell phone payments for parking

Council to Vote: Cell phone payments for parking?

(Crystal A. Proxmire, 7/10/2011)

On Monday, July 11, 2011’s City Council consent agenda is a plan to contract with Parkmobile to allow a person parking in Downtown Ferndale to use their cell phones to pay for their spots instead of having to fumble for quarters to feed the meter.

The service, which costs users a 35 cent fee per transaction, offers the additional convenience of having a reminder sent to their phone 15 minutes prior to the meter running out.  It also allows them to extend their time over the phone, without having to run out and put quarters in the meter.  A frequent user can also establish a $1.75 per month transaction fee with a 25 cent per transaction to save money.

When the user is done with their visit, they can either choose to let their meter expire on its own, or they can return to the online Parkmobile site to end their session, which they will then be charged for the pro-rated amount of actual time used.

The DDA (Downtown Development Authority) has been researching multi-space parking meters that will allow coin and credit card usage.  The Parkmobile system does not require new meters, and is seen as a temporary additional option for parking space users.

According to the DDA proposal, “Parkmobile will help us fill the gap in the meantime while we still research and receive requests for proposals for multi-space meter installation, and it can be integrated into multi-space meters when that transition happens. This will give consumers yet another choice in how they pay for parking. Parkmobile also provides parking pass and license plate recognition (LPR) capabilities, which we will explore further once the system is up and running. In the future, Ford Motor Company will be adding this feature to their cars so that users can easily access Parkmobile via their dashboard.”

Although the meters do not change when a person pays through their phone, parking enforcement officers can access a real-time online database that will tell them which parking spaces are paid for or not.

A presentation included in the council packet lists benefits of this program:

“~Increase Revenue

~Studies have showed parkers will stay 30% longer with Pay-by-Phone

~No Free Parking with Pay-by-Phone

~Shortens cash cycle for collections

~No Fraud because cashless payments

~No Cost to Implement [Editor’s Note: start up costs are listed below]

~Parkmobile pays for all stickers/signs and marketing materials

~No need to purchase pricey multi-space machines

~Your own dedicated reporting portal for reconciliation purposes

~Instant enforcement off URL”

 

According to the proposal, “The cost to the City’s Auto Parking fund would consist of the credit card transaction fees charged by the City’s bank or credit card processor which is Comerica, and the purchase of a wireless card ($50) and MI-FI system ($50/month) for the parking enforcement officer’s handheld ticket issuance equipment (approximately $650).  An estimate on credit card processing fees is difficult to project since we have never used credit card processing for meters before nor tracked parking meter collections based on the number of transactions, just the total amount of money collected. To curtail any excessive credit card fees, we have determined that setting a minimum parking purchase of $1 would make this system cost-effective for the City.”

The DDA says implementation will take approximately one month, and the management and promotion of the program will be their responsibility. It also says that city officials are on board. “The Ferndale DDA has met with the Police Department, DPW, Finance and City Manager regarding Parkmobile and all agree that this will be a valuable improvement to the parking system.”

Parkmobile was first started in Europe in 1999, and was introduced in America in 2009.  It is now in use in 15 states.  In Michigan, Parkmobile programs can be found in Petoskey, Grand Rapids, Dearborn and Sault St. Marie.  Check out their website at http://us.parkmobile.com to learn more.

To read more about the proposal, view it along with the contract and e mail conversations about the program at the City of Ferndale’s website in the section under July 11’s agenda.

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