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Albany Parking Authority Expands Mobile Payment App, Installs New Parking Meters

WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

Street parking has gone high-tech in Albany:  the city is installing additional new parking meters and expanding methods of payment.

One year ago a "smart" approach to parking was unveiled in downtown Albany. The ParkAlbany app complemented 12 new experimental pay-by-phone parking meters covering 100 parking spots. The experimental program revolutionized parking in New York's capital city. The test phase along State Street between Eagle and Broadway proved to be a hit with motorists, who gave the new meters and pay-by-phone app rave reviews, according to the city’s top parking official.   "The number one goal that we have is to give people the option to pay by either cash or credit card, and we want also for people to have the option of the app."

Albany Parking Authority Executive Director Matt Peter says a plan to extend the program is moving forward.   "We had about 30 to 40 percent use of the app. The higher amounts were during bad or inclement weather. It took some people getting used to putting their license plate number in the machine or in the app, but once that was done, people described it as much easier to use and there was a strong desire with a lot of our customers to see it go citywide, especially for the app. And that was always the goal of the test program, that if it was viable and it was successful that, in our natural upgrading of our meter system, which we have to do every five years or so because of the age of the meters, we want to make sure that we are bringing pay-by-phone and pay-by-plate, which is necessary for that, citywide."

Both meters and pay-by-phone capabilities are being rolled out in two phases.    "We are currently looking to upgrade another 80 single-space meters into the smarter single-space meters that you might see around. But for the multi-space meters it's looking like the initial phase will be done Monday and the phase one is mostly downtown and around the capitol. Phase two is gonna be in mid- to late-July and that's going to be the rest of the city."

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan tries out the ParkAlbany app on one of the city's 12 new experimental pay-by-phone parking meters.
Credit Periscope
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan tries out the ParkAlbany app on one of the city's 12 new experimental pay-by-phone parking meters. (June 2017)

Convenience comes with a user fee of 5 cents.  The meters are cold-weather-ready and ADA compliant. During last year's press event coinciding with the system rollout, 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 and can be programmed to offer coupons for nearby businesses.

Early on, Peter pegged the cost of implementing the test phase at around $76,000. The figures have worked out to be in the neighborhood of $5,500 per meter, so installing 158 meters will cost roughly $869,000 — all paid for by meter and municipal garage revenue.   "Until the full rollout happens, you know, make sure you're just reading the on-street signage to make that you're doing the appropriate thing to avoid getting a ticket, which we certainly don't want to have happen. And then we're excited to have this go citywide by the end of July."

Peter adds the ParkAlbany app is free to download from the App Store and Google Play, and parkers can also manage their parking online at parkalbany.com/app.

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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