Smartphone app streamlines parking bills


Carolina Sanchez

Smartphone app streamlines parking bills

By Assistant Metro Editor

Frequent trips to refill parking meters could be a thing of the past with the implementation of a city-sponsored smartphone application that would allow drivers to pay for parking using their cellphones. 

The new pay-by-cell app is scheduled to be piloted downtown in late spring before it is made available citywide. The app, available for iPhone and Android, is intended to make parking more convenient by allowing motorists to quickly pay with their credit or debit cards, according to a March 10 mayoral press release.

The pay-by-cell app will offer a number of timesaving features, such as allowing drivers to check how much time remains on the meter and giving them the option to reload time via the app. The app will also send users text message reminders 10 minutes before their metertime expires, according to the press release.

Elan Mosbacher, director of marketing at SpotHero, a mobile app that offers drivers discounted parking rates in Chicago garages, said the new app will make parking more convenient and aligns with budding parking trends. 

“There is really a transformation in the parking industry right now,” Mosbacher said. “Parking has operated the same way for a long time and it’s exciting to see the parking industry is moving into this century and making it very easy for consumers who are used to using their phone to pay for all sorts of things.”

While the pay-by-cell program will simplify parking, it comes at a cost. Drivers who pay for less than two hours of parking will be charged a 35-cent fee, according to the press release. 

Doug Haddad, advertising manager of the publication Chicago Commuter, said he hopes the app will decrease parking costs for drivers by reducing the number of paper tickets issued, which in turn reduces paper costs for Chicago Parking Meters.

Lisa Disbrow, spokeswoman for Waste Management in Illinois, said reducing the amount of paper used to print parking receipts would create a healthier environment.

“Any time that we are able to not produce waste, that’s a positive for the environment,” Disbrow said. “That helps us with sustainability and saves our resources.”

Disbrow said the city is adopting more sustainable services, and the implementation of the parking app will allow drivers to use parking meters when needed while creating an avenue for the city to become more environmentally friendly.

Mosbacher said although the app will be more convenient, there will always be people who prefer to pay for parking at the meter, so keeping both options available to drivers is a realistic approach to the changing parking industry. 

“It appears that there is a portion of the population of drivers in Chicago who embrace and appreciate the opportunity for things like parking via an app,” Mosbacher said. “Whether it’s because they appreciate the convenience, payment options or in some cases the savings, I believe that providing consumers more options and more convenience is a good thing.”