Parking can be a challenge in downtown Birmingham but it doesn't have to be — that's, at least, the sentiment of those behind Parkmobile, the smartphone-friendly way to pay for your parking.
"It's exciting to partner with a forward thinking city like Birmingham," said Michael Sanocki, vice president of operations for Parkmobile.
The company launched in Europe in 1999 and now serves more than 300 cities across the country. Birmingham was the sixth city in Michigan to join Parkmobile, alongside Ferndale, Dearborn, Grand Rapids, Petoskey and South Haven. Sanocki said the company is currently in negotiations with several other Michigan cities, including Traverse City.
Parkmobile gives drivers in Birmingham the option to pay for their parking meters via credit card either by calling a phone number or by using a downloaded app on their smartphone or tablet.
How does Parkmobile work?
- First, register at us.parkmobile.com, by calling 800-280-4146 or by downloading the mobile smartphone app.
- Apps are available for the following smartphones: iPhones (as well as iPod Touch and the iPad), Android, Windows Phone 7 and Blackberry. Parkmobile will also be compatible with the new platform from Blackberry.
- When you want to park, pull up to a parking spot with the Parkmobile green sticker on the parking meter.
- From there, you can either pull up the app or call the toll-free number, find your specific zone and parking space (listed on the Parkmobile sticker), and then select however long you want to stay.
- Know you'll soon be running out of time on your parking meter? No problem: Parkmobile allows users to add more time to their meter straight from their phones.
To use Parkmobile, drivers are charged an additional fee on top of the standard price for Birmingham parking meters, which range from 50 cents to $1 per hour. Under the Parkmobile system, drivers can still pay for their meters with coins.
Parkmobile will offer a standard fee of 43 cents per transaction, as well as a preferred customer fee of 35 cents per transaction with a $1.75 monthly membership fee.
A Mobile Wallet payment option is also available, providing parkers and merchants the opportunity to create a "virtual account" in various amounts, minimizing individual transaction fees.
According to Sanocki, there are now 2,200 people in Birmingham registered with Parkmobile and since August, more than 10,000 transactions have occurred at the city's 1,700 parking meters — all of which are equipped to work with the service.
"The city continually strives to use technology to improve services and reduce costs," said Mayor George Dilgard, adding, "the people that continually have a parking ticket problem, I think this is a good way to break that habit."
Parking has long been a problem in Birmingham, Dilgard admitted. A recent market analysis of the downtown area from the Principal Shopping District revealed a number of complaints about parking, with 27 percent of survey respondents saying they disliked parking downtown.
"Even though we have an excellent parking deck system, some people like the convenience of street parking," Dilgard said. "We're always going to have some parking issues in downtown Birmingham and I think Parkmobile will help alleviate some of those issues."
Have you used Parkmobile? What do you think of the service?