Parking authority studies pay-by-phone technology


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With the installation of nearly 560 multispace metering devices completed, Pittsburgh Parking Authority is pursuing other modernization initiatives.

The authority board voted Thursday to consider adding a pay-by-phone feature to the multispace machines, which are used for on-street parking spaces and metered lots Downtown and in parts of 11 other neighborhoods. It also voted to develop an on-line reservation system for spaces in six of the authority's Downtown garages.

The authority bought the multispace metering devices and seven years of maintenance for about $7.3 million. Many of the machines, which accept coins and credit cards, replaced single-space meters, which took only quarters. Motorists enter their license plate numbers at the pay stations, and parking enforcement officers use that information to identify vehicles in violation.

Now, said David Onorato, the authority's executive director, it's time to introduce an additional payment option -- pay-by-phone technology that allows motorists to purchase time online or by making a call. He said it was "always our intention to look at this technology."

Latrobe last summer introduced pay-by-phone technology for about 1,000 garage and on-street spaces. "People can feed their meter from their desk," Alex Graziani, city manager, said.

Motorists download apps or visit an Internet site to set up accounts, and the registration process requires motorists to enter license plate and credit card numbers. Later, motorists use the app or call a phone number to buy time at a parking space. The program sends a text message to alert users when their time is almost up.

If they prefer, motorists may continue to put coins into the meters. Parking enforcement officers read the meters and use data from the pay-by-phone program to tell which vehicles are in violation.

"It's enabled us to offer customers a choice without a large investment in equipment," Mr. Graziani said.

The authority board voted to solicit proposals from pay-by-phone vendors.

The board voted to spend up to $35,000 on the online reservation program, which would debut sometime next year. It would allow motorists to reserve and purchase spaces in six Downtown garages: Mellon Square, Smithfield Street/Liberty Avenue, Fort Duquesne Boulevard/Sixth Street, Oliver Avenue, First Avenue and Grant Street Transportation Center.

Currently, motorists may reserve spaces in authority-owned and privately owned garages through a program run by Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

But the authority said its program will have new features. For example, motorists would make reservations with their credit cards, then use the same cards to get into and out of a garage.

mobilehome - neigh_city

Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548. First Published December 21, 2012 5:00 AM


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