Patrons of Lot H in west Dearborn now can pay for parking using the Parkmobile application. Variations are available for phones and iPods, or users can call a toll-free phone number. The new service will allow customers to pay exact change instead of repeatedly guessing and paying too much at parking meters. The service will expand to all meters throughout west Dearborn by the end of 2011.
By CHRIS JACKETT
DEARBORN – Patrons of the western downtown portion of the city had better get out their cell phones, because that soon will be the preferred method of paying for parking.
The city announced Dec. 20 that Atlanta-based Parkmobile USA Inc. will provide a mobile payment system where visitors of the west Dearborn businesses will have the option to essentially punch in and punch out of a registered account in order to pay for their parking.
“We’re pleased to offer this innovation to make it even more convenient for people to visit the stores, night spots and restaurants in our west downtown,” Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said in a statement. “We want to deliver services for the way people live their lives now, and phone applications are a big part of that.”
The first area to experience this change is metered Lot H, on West Village Drive between Mason and Monroe, just south of Michigan Avenue. Anyone looking to park behind Double Olive Cocktail Lounge, Post Bar Dearborn or Crave will have the option to use the Parkmobile system.
“What I’ve heard from the customers is it’s more of a pain than a help,” said Megan Clark, manager at Double Olive. “Everyone wants the booths back.”
Clark said the new program is somewhat of “a joke” among customers, and that many are concerned with turning over their credit card information to another wireless third party.
However, Clark hadn’t heard that the city plans to convert most of west Dearborn to the Parkmobile system by March, with the full western area covered by the end of 2011.
“We are always looking for ways to be more customer friendly,” said Mark Shooshanian, councilman and chairman of the Parking Advisory Commission, in a release.
Downtown patrons can register with Parkmobile for free at www.parkmobile.com or by downloading a free phone application. Once registered, motorists can use the mobile app, the Internet or call (800) 280-4146 toll free to pay for parking by punching in the number on their parking meter or spot. The entire process takes just a few seconds.
Drivers also can check on the time left in their parking session or select an option to receive a text message alert 15 minutes before their parking time expires.
“Parkmobile is very excited to launch our pay-by-phone parking service with the city of Dearborn,” said Albert Bogaard, president and chief executive officer of Parkmobile USA Inc., in a statement. “With this technology, customers no longer have to search for change or estimate the time needed at their destination. The pay-by-phone service is an example of another technology that can make our lives easier and more efficient.”
The cost to park in Lot H is 50 cents per hour, with a 35-cent transaction fee. Patrons also have the option to pay a flat $3 rate, which includes the transaction fee, if they’re parking from 5 p.m. to close.
“The small transaction fee to use the cell phone service is paid to Parkmobile USA. The city of Dearborn does not receive any additional revenue from this service, but is offering it as a convenience to our customers,” said Mary Laundroche, director of public information for the city.
Dearborn is just the second Michigan city to sign up for the Parkmobile service. Grand Rapids is already a member.
Throughout the United States, Parkmobile services dozens of cities in New York and Massachusetts, as well as 12 others total between nine states and the District of Columbia.