Piloting Pay-by-Plate Parking Payments

Cedar Rapids, Iowa, continues to move away from on-street meters and kiosks.
by B.A. Morelli, The Gazette | September 17, 2019 AT 3:09 AM

(TNS) - Park Cedar Rapids, the company managing most paid parking in downtown Cedar Rapids, is testing a new system that could continue the move away from traditional on street parking meters and kiosks.

The company is launching a pilot program on the Third Avenue Bridge in which people pay by license plate instead of space number, beginning on Monday and lasting several weeks. They can pay via the Passport Parking mobile app or a pay station located on the bridge.

“We‘ve had some good success with license plate and paying by plate rather than paying by space,” Jon Rouse, manager of Park Cedar Rapids, said during a finance committee meeting last month.

He noted the model already is used in off-street facilities including Lot 44, Lot 3 and the Southside Ramp.

“People seem to like it. It’s also very compatible with the paid phone application,” Rouse said.

The plan is to gauge parkers’ reaction and determine whether to expand the program.

The model should further encourage use of mobile payments and potentially could eliminate the need for meters and kiosks, which represent significant costs for upkeep, Rouse said.

“One thing, it helps declutter the streets,” Rouse said. “It doesn’t necessarily warrant an individual sign or meter in these situations, but it also supports higher use of the pay-by-phone app and potentially lowers our cost for hardware software.

“When you’re paying by phone, you don’t necessarily need to have a multi-space parking meter every single block or a meter every single space. We’re really pushing folks to use this phone app.”

In Cedar Rapids, 33 percent of parking meter transactions are mobile and the goal is to get to 60 percent in the next few years, Rouse said.

The challenge is 14 percent of parking system users do not have a smartphone, which would not exclude them from mobile payments but would make it more difficult, Rouse said.

People who use Passport Parking — which also is in several communities such as Waterloo, Omaha and Lincoln, Neb., and Chicago — likely have their license plate already stored in the system. Cedar Rapids switched to Passport Parking as a vendor earlier this year.

Because this license plate model will be new to many parkers, ambassadors will be in the area to help, and a citation forgiveness via reminder notes will be issued for the first three weeks, according to a news release.

“This gives us from the parking department a chance to reach out to show (people) we’re not the big, bad parking monster,” Rouse said. “We’re not going to give them a ticket, but we are going to educate them on how to use the system.”

Parkers are advised to check signs for time limits, zone number and other relevant information. Parking time limits range from 30 minutes to 10 hours, depending on location, and the costs start at 75 cents per hour.

©2019 The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.