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Now you can use your phone to park in downtown Raleigh. But there’s a catch.

How to use the Passport Parking app

Starting March 25, 2019, you’ll be able to pay for on-street parking in downtown Raleigh using the Passport parking app on your Android or Apple mobile phone, but it’s going to cost you a convenience fee.
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Starting March 25, 2019, you’ll be able to pay for on-street parking in downtown Raleigh using the Passport parking app on your Android or Apple mobile phone, but it’s going to cost you a convenience fee.

You can now pay for on-street parking in downtown Raleigh using your mobile phone, but it’s going to cost you a little extra.

Starting Monday, drivers are now able to use the Passport parking app to pay for metered spaces in the city’s downtown district, which includes the Glenwood South area. The city has been accepting the app for parking payments along Hillsborough Street near N.C. State University since November 2016.

The app is free to download from the iPhone App Store and Android Google Play, but you’ll pay a 25-cent “convenience fee” each time you use it, on top of the $1 per hour cost of parking.

The city’s pay stations will still accept coins and credit cards. But the app offers some advantages beyond convenience: It will warn you when your parking time is about to expire and allow you to add time remotely, as long as you haven’t exceeded the maximum allowed in the space.

The Passport app has historically gotten good reviews on the App Store and Google Play, but it’s clear that many users aren’t happy with a recent update for Android. On Google Play, users are panning the layout and performance of the new version, calling it more clumsy and complicated than the previous one.

“Tell the programmer to lay off the Starbucks,” one user wrote. “Busy and convoluted.”

The company that created the app, Passport Labs Inc. of Charlotte, reads those comments closely and is working to make improvements, said Brad Powers, the chief technology officer. Powers said the new version of the app was rolled out to about 80,000 Android users and that the company will continue to make updates before introducing a version for Apple, which accounts for about three quarters of Passport users.

“We won’t roll it out to IOS until we’ve got the user base in Android working pretty well,” Powers said in an interview Monday.

Powers said the company wants using the Passport parking app to be a “nonevent” that’s simple and can be done without much thought. He said the app is used in about 450 cities and towns and that use tends to grow over time as people try it.

“After they’ve done that, people don’t go back to credit cards or coins,” he said. “They’re an app user for life.”

Matthew Currier, the city’s parking manager, said he’s not especially worried by the complaints about the new Android version of the app, which has been out about three months. “I imagine they’ll work quickly to fix these issues,” Currier said.

For his part, Currier said he has found the app to be “pretty intuitive.”

“It’s easy to create an account,” he said. “It asks you, ‘Do you want to start a new session?’ You type in zone, space number and the amount of time you want. It’s really that simple.”

Since the city began accepting Passport payments along Hillsborough Street, about 15 percent of parking transactions have been done with the app, Currier said.

“We didn’t hear any complaints about it,” he said. “And the feedback from the Hillsborough Street merchants has been very positive.”

People can also use the Passport parking app in Durham and Asheville. If you’re looking to park on N.C. State’s campus, it uses a different app, from ParkMobile.

For more information about parking in downtown Raleigh, go to the city’s website, www.raleighnc.gov/, and search for “ParkLink.”

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 19 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.

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