Raleigh Expanding Parking App Citywide

This article originally appeared in The News & Observer.

March 7, 2017
You’ll soon need only your phone to pay for city parking.

City leaders want to enable drivers to pay for street parking using a mobile app called Passport Parking that is now available only along Hillsborough Street.

Elsewhere downtown, where most of Raleigh’s metered parking is located, visitors must pay for public parking using cash or credit cards. But the popularity of the mobile app, enabled for Hillsborough Street in November as part of a three-month pilot program, has given city administrators confidence that the app would be worth expanding throughout downtown.

Now the city hopes to roll out the program to all city public parking meters this summer, said Gordon Dash, Raleigh’s parking administrator.

“Both Passport and the city have looked at this and said it was a huge success,” Dash said.

Passport app payments accounted for about 13 percent of all payments and 16 percent of parking revenues on Hillsborough between November and February, according to the transportation department.

Drivers used the app for 7,500 payments, cash for 17,000 payments and credit cards 33,600 payments. The city collected about $12,000 from app payments, $14,900 from cash payments and $47,700 from credit cards.

Passport is convenient for the city because it’s already used at N.C. State University and at some private lots downtown. Expanding the parking app from the 244 Hillsborough spaces to all 1,230 downtown spaces will come at minimal cost to the city, Dash said.

The city subscribes to the Passport app through the National Cooperative Purchasing Alliance, of which Raleigh is a member. That means the city doesn’t have to go through a public bidding service to enter a contract with another parking app provider, Dash said. Operational costs are mostly covered through user fees.

The city will likely spend money to install new signs at downtown meters to make them more user-friendly, Dash said. He’s not sure how much that will cost, “but it’s not a cost that we’ll pass back to the user,” he said.

Dash sees the app as a device that not only helps visitors but improves government efficiency. Raleigh wants to reduce cash payments so city staff doesn’t have to collect coins as often, Dash said.

“The less coin there is, the less frequently we need to pick it up,” he said. “This frees up staff to offer enhanced customer service elsewhere.”