published Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Need parking? There’s an app for that

A new green Parkmobile sign is mounted on the pay kiosk at Power Alley and Riverfront Parkway. The new parkmobile app parking system for will be managed by CARTA.
A new green Parkmobile sign is mounted on the pay kiosk at Power Alley and Riverfront Parkway. The new parkmobile app parking system for will be managed by CARTA.
Photo by Tim Barber.
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CARTA sites where the pay by phone parking service is available:

• Riverfront Parkway and Power Alley

• Incline Railway

• Coolidge Park

• Renaissance Park

• North Shore parking garage

Gregg Dwyer of Kennesaw, Ga., says he uses his cell phone for lots of activities so using it to pay for parking is a natural.

“I’d do this everywhere,” he said Friday at a downtown Chattanooga parking lot during a visit to the city.

CARTA has started a new service at four downtown lots and one garage in which motorists can use their cell phones to pay to park. It’s part of a larger initiative to ease central-city parking problems.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield as the pay-by-phone parking service was kicked off. “It’s one additional step making it easy to do business downtown.”

The technology from Atlanta-based Parkmobile USA allows motorists to charge parking fees to their credit cards. Motorists can register through the company or download an app.

Laurens Eckelboom, Parkmobile USA’s executive vice president for marketing, said Chattanooga is the first city in Tennessee to implement the service.

He said signs at parking stations will help patrons use the new technology, which is also offered in Atlanta, Washington, D.C, Boston, Greenville, S.C., and other cities.

Eckelboom said motorists pay a 35-cent convenience fee per transaction.

“It’s a flat fee,” he said, which doesn’t change whether the cost to park is $1 or $5.

Brent Matthews, CARTA’s parking director, said the service moves the city forward in the use of technology. It’s a help for people who don’t have change or don’t want to wait in line to pay.

The service will send an alert to the cell phone 15 minutes before a motorists’ parking time runs out, Matthews said. The user can add on more time without having to return to the parking lot, he said.

City Councilman Manny Rico termed the new service “user friendly.”

“You don’t have to worry about having money,” he said.

More downtown parking lots, including those run by Republic Parking System, are slated to start using the technology in four to eight weeks, Eckelboom said. Between 2,500 and 3,000 parking spaces in the central city could be available for the service by late summer, he said.

Matthews said CARTA is looking at adding on-street parking to the system.

Dwyer said the only part of the new parking initiative he doesn’t like is the transaction fee.

“I’ve got a problem with that,” he said, adding it ought to be a free service.

Last year several groups including CARTA, the River City Co., the city and others teamed to look at easing the central city’s parking predicament.

Downtown workers, residents and visitors faced a shortage of parking spaces at key times and locations, such as on the waterfront.

Officials have implemented a few actions, such as offering discounted monthly parking prices at some lots and garages to hospitality, restaurant and retail employees who may now be feeding meters during the work day.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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eeeeeek said...

Any one of many glitches in these type of apps will result in the booting of your car.

June 25, 2011 at 9:18 a.m.
NoMyth said...

Republic Parking's predatory pricing has to stop. The city or other private companies need to invest in more downtown parking gargages. The rates that Republic is charging are is inconceivable that competitors are not challenging their unreasonably lucrative monopoly.

June 25, 2011 at 12:42 p.m.
PJLance said...

NoMyth, I agree with you. Republic Parking is a pitiful and unnecessary monopoly that hurts downtown consumers and deters potential consumers from doing business. I can't find any reason why their continued monopolistic hold on this vital aspect of the downtown economy needs to continue.

At best, I'd advocate for city-held parking spaces. Revenue could be used to fund moves towards more public transportation.

June 25, 2011 at 2:36 p.m.
NoMyth said...

PJ, thanks for the backup. Daily parking is about $5 in Atlanta...$8 in Chattanooga, with higher hourly rates if you park for just an hour or two. And, every lot is full every day....because it is all surface parking. Go to GoogleMaps and look at Chattanooga...50% paved surface parking lots with most owned by Republic or a few private employers that do not allow use by the public. It is beyond pathetic. Check out cities like Greenville, South Carolina, that have a vibrant downtown because the parking is city-owned and it is provided at no charge on the weekends...a major boon to downtown businesses. Chattanooga's downtown businesses need to band together. Downtown property owners should support a new approach as will only help their property values. Please wake up are shooting yourselves in the foot every day!

June 25, 2011 at 4:05 p.m.
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