Money to flow from smartphones to parking meters

Paying for parking with smartphone could be reality by late summer
Chad Barker loads up on change for parking whenever he heads to a restaurant or sporting event in Downtown Indianapolis.

But soon, he won't need change at all -- or have to be anywhere near his car -- when it's time to top off the meter.

With a smartphone, and an app that officials plan to debut this summer, motorists such as Barker will be able to feed a meter from any location without ever leaving their seat.

"I think that's a great idea," said Barker, 19, a West Lafayette man who visits Downtown every few weeks. "As Americans and Hoosiers become more attached to smartphone technology, I think it makes sense for the government to use that to operate more efficiently."

The effort is part of ParkIndy, the city's 50-year parking-meter lease. ParkIndy is in the second part of a three-phase rollout to replace the city's estimated 3,700 coin-fed-only meters. About 500 single-space and 50 multispace parking meters will replace old meters in and near Downtown through Aug. 1. The new meters accept credit cards as well as cash, and the cost to park increased from 75 cents to $1 per hour in many places.

In the final phase, residential meters in Broad Ripple will be replaced.

ParkIndy and city officials have not finalized a deal with a vendor for the smartphone app, but motorists will be able to download it -- likely free of charge.

ParkIndy project manager Adam Isen said that in cities already using the technology -- such as Wilmington, N.C., and Long Beach, Calif. -- motorists pay a flat service fee, about 30 cents, to add time to a meter via an app. Indianapolis is expected to follow that model.

"Bringing us into the 21st century is a good thing for the people who come Downtown and visit our city," said Marc Lotter, spokesman for the mayor's office.

Indianapolis received $20 million from the parking-meter lease up front and will get a share of revenue that is estimated at $363 million to $620 million. By state law, those proceeds must be spent on street improvements and infrastructure in the meter zones.

The city also has agreed to contribute $6.35 million from the deal toward construction of a $15 million parking garage in Broad Ripple.

On Mass Ave., David Andrichik, owner of Chatterbox Jazz Club, 435 Massachusetts Ave., said new parking meters have worked well.

The new meters require payment from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, longer hours than in the past. That, he said, has freed up spaces for customers. When the hours of payment ended earlier in the night, he explained, people would leave their cars parked for hours, tying up spaces.

"More than anything else," he said, "customers like the conversion to (meters that accept) credit cards and the fact that they can get a space without driving around the block several times."
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