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A new sticker on a City of Athens parking meter shows a new mobile way of paying.
A new sticker on a City of Athens parking meter shows a new mobile way of paying.

Parking Meters Go Mobile In Athens

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The extra cardio workout of rushing to put money in an expired meter is no longer necessary with the introduction of a new mobile application in Athens.

A new sticker was placed on all 797 meters in the city announcing that it had joined with Parkmobile, LLC., to begin a program allowing payment of parking meters via smartphone.

“A lot of people have some kind of smartphone or at least have access to…a tablet with wifi or something like that,” said Ron Lucas, Deputy Service Safety Director for the City of Athens. “Now they can log in and pay the meter right from their (device) using a credit card or debit card.”

The app can be downloaded on iPhone, Android, Windows 7 and Blackberry, a news release from Parkmobile and the city stated.

After user download the app, they will pay the same parking rates as those paying with coins, $0.50 per hour, but there will also be a $0.35 fee per transaction to Parkmobile. But the convenience of not having to go to the meter to feed it might be worth the extra fee, Lucas said. Hourly limits such as two-hour and four-hour parking will also stay the same.

Originally, the city had thought about just using Parkmobile on certain meters, such as those in the parking garage. The city looked to Ohio University before making the decision. The university has been using the program since 2014, with success, according to Lucas.

“The numbers of adopted users just kept increasing,” he said. “So with some debate and discussion and some convincing from the Parkmobile folks and OU officials that had a lot of success with it, we decided to just go ahead and do the whole city.”

The process of getting the system up and running took about nine months, and included a switch for parking enforcement officers.

“They had to switch from handheld computers that parking enforcement officers use to a Wifi solution,” Lucas said.

Now, parking enforcement can scan a license plate and check if they are paid on Parkmobile, even if the meter says “expired.”

“You may still see an expired meter, but nobody’s going to get a ticket because an expired meter’s only saying it’s out of coins,” Lucas said.

The idea of updating the meters themselves or going to a kiosk parking system has been discussed, but no decisions have been made. For now, the new meters should have a positive effect on city life, according to Lucas.

“There’s going to be…a learning curve, but there’s going to be a lot of adopters who are going to say ‘hey, let’s roll with this,” Lucas said.