Coming soon (or not): Pay by phone parking in Tampa

The City of Tampa is currently negotiating with Parkmobile to upgrade their downtown on-street parking and open-air lots with an additional payment option: Pay by phone. Parkmobile is a leading global provider of seamlessly integrated end-to-end solutions for electronic parking. The firm's product offerings include cashless mobile payments for on and off street parking, digital permits, electronic enforcement and congestion charging systems.

Tomorrow the city council will vote whether or not to contract Parkmobile to implement the pay by phone option. The city council stil has to figure out some details before they are ready to decide. For example, how are they going to imprint a barcode on the signs to identify the individual parking spaces, how much time should they give parkers who ask for more time, since there is a two hour limit for parking with the ability to add another hour?

Two years ago the city replaced their parking meters with parking kiosks that require a credit card for payments. The city gave every parking space a unique number which enables the parker to buy additional time from anywhere in the system. Before that they were using the traditional pay-by-coin meters.

The disadvantage of paying with cash, is that you always have to carry loose change with you. Another disadvantage is that you have to determine the amount of time you want to park in advance: You insert the coins before you go your way, but you don’t always know exactly how long you will be gone. This means that sometimes you pay for time you don’t actually spend, or you are so caught up in what you’re doing that you exceed the time limit.

Pay-by-phone is a type of parking operation that enables a customer to pay using a cell phone or mobile application. The pay-by-cell phone provider charges the customer for parking fees and reimburses the parking operator. Enforcement officers audit by checking online databases for valid plates. Actually they could name this one “pay by smartphone”, because it only applies to smartphones that have a connection to the internet. In most situations you have to pre-register on the internet or download an app.

Parkmobile also requires the user to register through their website. Then you can download an app to pay for parking. The app also sends an alert to the parker when their time on the meter is about to expire. They can extend the time through the app and don’t have to walk back to their car.

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