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Parking meter payments go mobile in Grand Rapids, MI

November 3, 2009

Parking goes mobile

Parking goes mobile

Parkmobile North America launched parking services that let consumers pay via their mobile device.

Consumers in Grand Rapids, MI, can register and set up an account to use the service, linking credit or debit cards and their mobile numbers. Registration can be done on the Web or via a toll-free number, 800-280-4164.

“The strategy is that Grand Rapids is a city that is very innovative and safety-oriented, so implementing our services aligns with their goals,” said Laurens Eckelboom, executive vice president at Parkmobile, Atlanta.

Parkmobile provides integrated end-to-end services for electronic parking, covering parking modes such as digital permits, cashless on-street and off-street parking and electronic enforcement.

Forget the coins
The company said that its pay-by-phone parking system was designed to save consumers the headache of looking for the correct change and having to estimate the time needed at the meter.

With the service, consumers can instantly start and stop their parking transaction using their handset.

Mr. Eckelboom said that Grand Rapids is surrounded by many cities and universities, so parking can sometimes be a difficult challenge.

To start the service, the consumer parks as usual and instead of finding a meter, the consumer can call the toll free parking activation or deactivation number. The consumer’s mobile number will be automatically recognized by the system.

The interactive voice response system will prompt the consumer to enter the zone number, which corresponds to the parking fees and regulations in the area. Parkmobile’s parking zone numbers are displayed on parking meters or via street signage.

The zone number is then read back and, if correct, the consumer is instructed to press “1” or say “yes” to confirm, or the user can re-enter the number.

To stop the parking meter, the consumer calls the toll-free number back and they will be prompted to press “1” or say “yes” to end the parking time.

Consumers who stay on the line can hear the duration of their parking time and the total cost.

Parkmobile does not cover the airtime costs charged by each consumer’s carrier.

Parking attendants can check and see if the consumer is using Parkmobile by checking the license plate number.

When a consumer registers for the service, they are asked to register mobile device numbers and their license plate number.

The parking attendant can tell if the consumer is paying the correct charges based on the zone number.

Mobile on the move
Parkmobile said that Grand Rapids is one of first launches of many its company will make in major metropolitan areas, but Parkmobile is not the first company to offer mobile parking payment.

The city of Decatur, GA, went mobile to make fumbling for change at the city’s parking meters a thing of the past.

The city tapped StreetSmart Technology LLC and MobileNow for a pilot program letting consumers put time on parking meters by dialing in on their mobile phone. Decatur’s single-slot parking patrons can call a central number posted on the meter and charge their parking time remotely (see story).

In the case of Parkmobile, Mr. Eckleboom said that the company’s service targets drivers with mobile devices, but particularly younger people.

“People are living, eating and breathing with their cell phones, especially younger people,” Mr. Eckleboom said. “There are more cell phones than people in U.S., many people see the cell phone world as the sole channel for all services and parking is just one of them.”

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Chirs Harnick is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach him at

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