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Mobile payment apps can be used with existing meters, so don’t pull a Cool Hand Luke and start tearing down all your meters!

By Geoffrey Posluszny, CPP

Contactless payment in parking is certainly on everyone’s mind right now. (You’ve hopefully read our previous postings on the topic.) As state governments begin loosening the shelter-at-home policies that were put into place to “flatten the curve” of the pandemic, parking may become a hot topic. Many of the restrictions to open businesses include the constant disinfecting and cleaning of surfaces that people touch. It is almost impossible to envision having enough staff to disinfect on-street and off-street payment meters between each parking session.

Both single-space and multi-space meters for on- or off-street parking typically require some interaction with the device to pay for your parking. Whether it be to key in your plate number, select your time allocation, or key in your space number, you typically must touch the meter to complete a parking transaction. Of course, parking operations—whether private or public—will do as much as they can to keep up with this regular disinfecting and cleaning. But what solutions can they offer to reduce or eliminate touch points?

Contactless payment can be achieved by using one or more of the many mobile parking payment applications available today. These applications can be used with or without your existing meters, so don’t pull a Cool Hand Luke and start tearing down all your meters! Many of these companies offer the choice to pay with a mobile app, call a toll-free number, or even send an SMS text message to initiate your parking session. However, there are plenty of parking patrons who may just prefer to use cash, no matter the perceived cleanliness of the meter.

Smart parking meters and mobile parking payment apps can “communicate” with enforcement software in real-time that a parking session has been initiated, whether the patron paid the meter or the app. Combined with optional smart-sensor technologies, the meters can communicate back to enforcement software that a vehicle is present in a parking stall, but no parking session has been initiated. This can create a more efficient enforcement program, as well. No longer is an enforcement officer randomly looking for parking violators or following a pre-defined route each day.

Together these parking technologies offer the most payment options for your parking patron and create efficiencies to boost your parking operation’s bottom line! Reach out to your preferred vendor or Walker Consultants to learn more about these and other technologies available in parking today.