Talking tech since 2003

Yesterday, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s website published a press release to announce that the City was going to start accepting bids for pay-by-app parking systems, bringing one of the metropolitan area’s biggest headaches into the 21st century.

According to the press release, a pilot program for this system is already in place on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, and it’s worked well enough that Bloomberg is ready to bring it to the other four boroughs. Here’s how it all works: parking areas are marked by numbers on muni-meters, and users access the app and enter in where they’re parked and how much time they’d like on the space. A toll-free number can also be called to add more time if needed for those without smartphones, while you’ll also be able to access the parking service via the web on your computer. According to this post on ABC about the pilot program—implemented back in April—it seems as though the muni-meters will also take coins and credit cards for those who haven’t embraced the digital age.

The pilot program was rolled out concurrently with another program that monitored space availability, relaying that information to another app in real-time. That program, too, seems to be getting the green light (HAHA) from the City as a part of this bid. Now it just remains for tech firms to put together some proposals and for the City to choose the best and least expensive pitch.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan offered up this statement with regard to the pilot program’s successes:

“By eliminating the need for coins, credit cards or receipts, pay-by-phone parking has already been a game-changer for drivers in the Bronx, and it’s just one way we’ve made parking easier citywide. Expanding the system across the boroughs will now help more New Yorkers people dial in for faster, more convenient parking.”

This isn’t the first tech-powered parking solution we’ve heard about, with private companies Parx and Anagog partnering up back in October to help users find spots more easily. But as interesting as that sounded, I have confidence that whatever goes down in New York City could become a viable prototype for the rest of the country. New York has some of the worst traffic congestion anywhere in the United States, so anything that manages to work there could only work better literally everywhere else. As such, the contract for this system could very well go to Parx, or perhaps to a different tech firm with a viable proposal. The pilot program was conducted by Pay By Phone, which boasts about offering services in cities all over the country—including my current home of Minneapolis. But, to my knowledge, I’ve never seen a Pay By Phone meter anywhere in the city, though I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled. Chances are good the company’s aligned with a private parking operator somewhere in the city, which doesn’t do much to actually solve on-street parking issues.

But no matter who gets the project, I’m hopeful that whatever New York City does can help work the kinks out for the urban areas in the rest of the country…and that I’ll never have to fumble in my pockets for change to keep from getting a ticket again.

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