Vancouver samples a parking-meter app plan




No change? No problem.

To modernize downtown parking meters and offer alternative ways to pay, the city of Vancouver has partnered with Atlanta-based Parkmobile USA for a six-month pilot project on approximately 100 meters east of Esther Short Park and south of Evergreen Boulevard.

The project started Friday and will end Feb. 1, said Mike Merrill, the city’s parking manager.

If the technology proves popular, the city could put out a formal request for proposals from mobile parking payment providers and expand the program, including to the streets surrounding the Clark County Courthouse and Clark County Public Service Center, Merrill said.

On Friday, Merrill and parking enforcement supervisor Karen Kumpula affixed bright green stickers on meters in the areas of Washington and Main Streets. That’s a relatively high-turnover area, with maximum parking times of two hours.

Merrill said the city was approached by Parkmobile representatives who were in the Northwest bidding on contracts for Seattle and Portland.

Offering the service doesn’t cost the city money, he said. Parkmobile collects a 35-cent transaction fee.

Parkmobile allows users to pay for parking with a debit or credit card or PayPal account, either by calling a toll-free number, downloading an app or visiting a website.

Users will receive an alert on their phone 15 minutes before their parking meter expires and can add time to the meter from their phones if necessary.

People can still feed meters with coins. The first 20 minutes remain free, and the parking rates remain 50 cents an hour.

A ticket for an expired meter costs $15, Kumpula said.

In 2013, the city issued 15,756 expired meter violations, Kumpula said. That was 65 percent of all parking citations that year.