Getting Smart With Mobile-Pay-Only Parking Zones

With incredible advancements to parking software, parking operators across the country are beginning to question the costly parking hardware that has defined their operations for years. As 77% of Americans have adopted smartphones, transacting through those devices has become a native process, including for parking. As mobile pay for parking continues to rise in popularity across the U.S. as a parking payments option, it highlights the cost inefficiency of hardware counterparts, which require much more time and money to implement and maintain. Seeing this comparison, many forward-looking cities and universities are purging their hardware altogether for a mobile-pay-only solution.

The cities and universities making this switch to mobile payments only are quickly realizing the following key benefits:

  1. Cost reduction
  2. Rate flexibility
  3. Real-time reporting and analytics
  4. Minimal-effort expansions
  5. Moving a step closer to a smart operation

Cost Reduction

Hardware is expensive, with pay stations and smart meters costing anywhere between $6,000–$10,000 per unit, and requires regular maintenance that can cost up to $1,000 per month. Large parking operations often require paid maintenance staff on call at all hours for hardware issues. Alternatively, software solutions typically have automatic updates to evolve with the market and can fix system issues remotely without service interruption. With advanced software, cities can be guaranteed an uninterrupted, cost-efficient parking payment service.

Rate Flexibility

Mobile-pay-only operations have complete flexibility in managing parking rates. With a centralized system, staff can handle multiple zones with various rates, dynamically adjust rates according to peak hours or special events, and make parking periods free or restricted whenever desired —  all from a web-based portal.

Real-Time Reporting

Parking payment software typically includes a combined solution of a mobile application and back office system. Parking administrators can see real-time parking data, including parking payments, occupancy, finance reporting, as well as manage parking zones, rates and rules to dynamically adjust to changes in their environment. Gone are the days of not knowing how many vehicles parked in a specific zone or exactly how much revenue was generated each day. WIth 100% visibility into these analytics, cities and universities can transform their operations according to concrete, holistic, and accurate data.


For mobile-pay-only parking operations, expansion is as simple as the operator informing the mobile pay provider. With mobile pay, expansion incurs little to no cost and only requires the installation of informative signs. This allows the city or university to capture revenue from new spots immediately without waiting — or paying — for hardware installation.

Moving a Step Closer to a Smart Operation

Creating a smart city (or a smart operation) does not happen overnight and it’s a multistep process. One of the core components of this movement is digitizing a parking environment and leveraging technology to adopt a proactive way to manage transportation needs. By adopting a mobile-pay-only solution, cities and universities take the first big step toward becoming smarter and managing their operations in a more efficient and effective way.

To see these benefits in action, check out the following examples of a city or university currently leading the way with mobile-pay-only solutions:


Buffalo, NY

Key Challenge Addressed: Reducing hardware, associated costs and maintenance.

Previous Environment: Outdated hardware and infrastructure with very small budget.

Solution: When the warranties on its single-head meters were up, the City of Buffalo, NY, chose mobile pay as the only payment method for 400 of its parking spaces. Replacing old meters would have cost upwards of $10,000 per meter. Instead, the city invested in its own, white-labeled mobile payment application, Buffalo Roam, and worked with Passport to create it and configure it to its operation, making parking around the busy NHL arena mobile-pay-only. With proper signage and community outreach, the city has drastically increased utilization of its application and increased its total revenue.

“We don’t have any plans to purchase anymore pay-and-display machines if we can avoid it. It doesn’t make sense to spend another $10,000 on initial costs alone, especially as app utilization increases”

Davis Hough, Senior Special Assistant to the Parking Commissioner, Buffalo, NY

University of Wisconsin  – Whitewater, WI

Key Challenge Addressed: Finding a parking payment solution that would be most effective for a mobile-first student population.

Previous Environment: Coin-operated meters, many of which were broken.

Solution: The university staff knew they needed to move into the future, and also knew no hardware would easily adapt to the harsh winters of Wisconsin. After researching solutions, they found that Passport’s mobile payment system would be perfect for their students who were highly attuned to technology. Before Passport, the university had two staff members dedicated to coin collection every day and a 40-hour-a-week maintenance schedule, but with the Passport parking enforcement software they were able to redelegate those efforts toward higher-yield enforcement. With higher parking compliance and more efficiency in enforcement, the university drastically exceeded their revenue expectations, making $2,000 more in the first two weeks of the semester than the previous year.

“I am always for the new technology; and from personal experience going from coin to technology and how efficient and easy it has been, I don’t know why anyone would want to work with coins when you can do so much more electronically or on mobile.”

— Lisa Miller, Parking Services Internal Operations and Finance, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

Purdue University, IN

Key Challenge Addressed: Gaining the ability to collect data on all parking operations.

Previous Environment: Single-head coin meters.

Solution: Purdue University dove straight into the digital age with its switch from single-head coin meters to mobile-pay-technology. For years, this prestigious college had a parking operation that was years behind, with concerted effort going toward money collection and meter maintenance without any data insights. The university wanted its operation to match its modern and digitally savvy students and campus visitors. After implementing Passport’s mobile payment solution, Andy Pruitt, Parking Facilities Coordinator, observed the significant transaction increase through the Passport back-office system and decided to transition the campus to mobile-pay-only, achieving cost savings and driving efficiencies.

“The transition to mobile payments was smoother than expected, so we decided to move forward with a mobile-only solution. With mobile, we have an idea of where people are parking, how long they’re parking, and we don’t have to unload the meters every three days and work to maintain them. It’s easy for the customer and it’s easy for the provider.”

— Andy Pruitt, Parking Facilities Coordinator, Purdue University