Raleigh Report

Raleigh OKs parking app for Hillsborough Street

Hillsborough Street visitors soon won’t need credit cards – or loose change – to pay for parking.

The Raleigh City Council on Tuesday approved a three-month pilot program that will allow people to use a mobile app, Passport Parking, to pay for parking at 244 spaces along Hillsborough Street near downtown.

Visitors who download the Passport app will be able to use it to pay the $1-per-hour fee at any of the area’s 36 pay stations starting in mid-October. If the City Council deems the program successful, it will likely introduce app-payment capabilities elsewhere in the city.

“I think as popular as it is and as much as people are asking for it, I’d like to see it expanded,” Mayor Nancy McFarlane said.

Other council members agreed. Councilman Corey Branch said the city should enable mobile payment options for those who ride local bus systems.

“People are often confused as to why we don’t have this,” said Councilman Bonner Gaylord.

The rollout will have little to no cost for the city because Passport Parking is offering the service for free during the trial period.

It’s unclear how much Raleigh would have to pay to adopt an app-payment system at all 207 downtown pay stations for its 1,210 parking spaces.

If Raleigh wants to adopt such a system for parking long term, the city would have to solicit bids from companies that want to offer the service.

The city partnered with Passport Parking, a Charlotte-based company, for the pilot program because it already is being used at N.C. State University and at some private lots downtown, said Gordon Dash, Raleigh’s parking administrator.

He said other cities that use Passport, such as Asheville and Wilmington, offered positive reviews of the app.

Raleigh picked Hillsborough Street as its testing area because of its proximity to N.C. State. Many drivers in that area are already technologically savvy, Dash said.

“We already know that students rely heavily on cellphones for just about everything,” he said. “There have been an increasing number of requests for changes to be made.”

Passport reached out to Raleigh about four years ago, he said, but the city postponed a partnership because credit card payments remained low. Raleigh trailed most major cities in credit card transactions for parking.

Since then, Dash said credit card-based street parking payments increased by about 10 percent to account for 50 percent of all transactions.

“As more and more people are getting comfortable with their cellphones, pay-to-park is really a no-brainer,” he said.

It also benefits Raleigh staff to encourage such payments because coin collection can be a long process for meter agents, Dash said. Agents collect coins twice a week.

“It takes the better part of a morning to do it all,” he said.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

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