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Albany Parking Authority And Mayor Sheehan Announce New Downtown Meters And Mobile Parking App

A "smart" approach to parking was unveiled this morning in Albany — a city where downtown parking is always at a premium.

New technology proponents believe the experimental program will change the way people think about parking in New York's capital city.   Now in test phase along State Street between Eagle and Broadway, 12 new meters covering 100 parking spots interface with a mobile payment application that Albany Parking Authority Executive Director Matt Peter says can be downloaded to any smartphone.   "...that is integrated, that if someone even pays at the meter, but then is running late and they didn't expect to, they can download the app, they can put an extra couple bucks on and make sure they don't get a ticket. They don't have to run out of their meeting, they don't have to leave their dinner early."

Credit WAMC photo by Dave Lucas
Albany's 12 experimental "smart" parking meters are solar-powered!

Georgette Steffens with the Downtown Business Improvement District hails the authority as a leading entity when it comes to extending hospitality via innovation.  "Really understanding the impact that they have in attracting people into downtown, that they are a key component of economic development in the city. And so what this does, is it really removes the barriers for doing business in downtown."

Officials walked Mayor Kathy Sheehan through a simulation.  In the scenario, Sheehan is dining downtown and needs more time after deciding to order desert.   "...and then I would just enter the zone that I'm in... and I would add a vehicle, and there we go. Wow! OK!"

The pay-by-phone parking meters are multi-lingual (currently English and Spanish, with additional languages to be added) and capable of offering coupons for nearby businesses.

Chris Watt is Client Success Manager at Passport, Inc. which powers the ParkAlbany app.   "The parker will actually receive a notification 5 minutes prior to their parking session expiring, so they're alerted that their session is about to expire, and if they're able to they can extend their parking session at that point in time."

The convenience comes with a user fee of 5 cents.  The meters are cold-weather-ready and ADA compliant. Peter pegs the cost of implementing the test phase at around $76,000.  "It's a capital investment that the Parking Authority is going to make, it's one that we're desirous to make to make it easier for our customers and for our residents and visitors, but we want to make sure that everything works properly."

He adds extending the program citywide would cost in the three-quarters of a million dollars range, which would happen in 2018 if the test is successful.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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