Those tired of paying Birmingham's parking meters with quarters will soon have another option, after the Birmingham City Commission agreed to sign a contract with Parkmobile USA Monday night.
Under the Parkmobile system, users can pay for a Birmingham parking meter by either calling a phone number or by using their smartphone.
"It's really cool," Police Chief Don Studt said. "I can even use it."
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.
- 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.
According to Studt, each transaction will cost the user an additional 35 cents. The system will be implemented at no cost to the city except for $200 a month in enforcement fees.
However, Studt said the city should recoup those costs easily. Currently, cash from the city's parking meters are collected — and then deposited into city accounts — every four to five days. Parkmobile, meanwhile, deposits money into the city accounts twice a day.
Parkmobile was launched in 1999 in Europe, expanding to more than 100 cities nationwide since, including Dearborn, Grand Rapids and Ferndale in November 2011.
According to a Parkmobile representative, studies show that drivers using applications like Parkmobile are more likely to stay 30 percent longer than if they pay with quarters.
Several commissioners were excited about the idea of Parkmobile — and the option it provides for Birmingham's downtown diners and shoppers. Drivers can still pay with cash if they want.
"People who don't like to change, don't have to change," City Commissioner Gordon Rinschler said. "They can still use their change, so to speak."
However, the Parkmobile discussion soon led to the question of how to enforce time limits on Birmingham's parking meters. Several meters have only a one-hour limit, Studt said. Parkmobile will follow these rules, and won't allow drivers to extend their meter past that meter's time limit.
However, users can still extend their meter by paying with quarters, a work-around that is yet to be resolved.
"I like to see this, it's great," said City Commissioner Tom McDaniel. "But it should be the same for everybody."
Elaine McLain, chairman of the Birmingham Area Cable Board, said street parking in Birmingham is "in crisis."
"I'll spend money in Ferndale (or other places with these systems) and visit those businesses if something like this isn't adopted here," she said.