Articles

Parking in Portland, Maine, Just Got Pricier, But New App Allows For More Time

By early fall, visitors to Portland will have another way to pay for parking – with their cellphones.

by Randy Billings, Portland Press Herald, Maine / July 5, 2017
The Back Basin section of Portland, Maine. Flickr/Paul VanDerWerf/Cropped

(TNS) -- Street parking has just gotten a little more expensive in Maine’s largest city.

But a 25-cent-per-hour increase in parking meter rates that took effect July 1 is just one of several changes taking place in Portland’s parking program.

While the increase from $1 an hour to $1.25 is expected to help boost parking revenues in the next year by $600,000, the city also is planning to roll out a new mobile application that will allow visitors to pay meters from cellphones and receive alerts when a meter is about to expire. That could help motorists avoid tickets for expired meters, another steady source of city revenue.

“We’re trying to provide a good service to people,”said John Peverada, the city’s parking manager.

Hourly rates for the city’s 766 coin-operated parking meters and pay-and-display kiosks, which cover 851 spaces, increased Saturday based on a provision that was approved as part of the city’s budget for the new fiscal year.

Peverada said the city has not increased parking rates since 2009, while garages and surface parking lots operated by private companies have had increases.

“I don’t think you can think of anything you’ve bought that hasn’t gone up since 2009,” Peverada said.

Under the new fee structure, a quarter will buy you 12 minutes of parking, rather than 15 minutes, and a dime will buy you five minutes, rather than six. But nickels are tricky – the first nickel will still buy you three minutes, but your second nickel only gets you two.

News of the increase did not sit well with Old Port parkers last week.

“I’m not too fond of the idea,” said Justin Canney, who was racing to finish washing windows around Post Office Park before his meter expired.

“It’s a nuisance,” Andrew Sutcliffe, a truck driver and street preacher, said after pumping change into a kiosk on Exchange Street. “I think they make enough money off of giving people tickets.”

REVENUE FROM PARKING HAS INCREASED SINCE 2013

The increase is expected to generate an additional $600,000 in revenue to the city. But even without rate increases, revenue generated from public parking has increased in each fiscal year since the city began installing pay-and-display parking kiosks that allow people to pay with debit and credit cards, as well coins and dollar bills.

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Portland raising parking meter fees

In fiscal 2013, when the city had only one parking kiosk and predominantly relied on standard meters, the city took in about $2.1 million from parking fees and an additional $1.9 million from parking tickets. With 93 kiosks operating in fiscal 2016, those revenues jumped to $2.6 million from meters and $2.1 million for tickets.

Unlike in York, which lost tens of thousands of dollars when its new parking kiosk malfunctioned this year, Peverada said Portland has not experienced any major kiosk malfunctions, though they can freeze up if winter conditions are right.

By early fall, visitors to Portland will have another way to pay for parking – with their cellphones.

Peverada said the city will be rolling out a new mobile parking app. Areas with metered parking will be broken down into zones, which will be marked with street signs, telling people how to download and use the app.

Users would simply enter their vehicle’s license plate number, indicate in which zone they are parking, and purchase the amount of time they need to park.

UP NEXT: ALERTS FOR EXPIRING METERS

Mobile users would receive a text alert when their time is about to expire and would be allowed to purchase additional time, although they would still have to adhere to the two-hour limit before they would have to move their vehicles. Motorists could still be ticketed for leaving a vehicle in a two-hour spot for three hours, for example.

The mobile app could be used at both metered and kiosk parking spots.

At the same time, parking enforcement staff will be using new, hand-held machines to issue parking tickets. If they begin issuing a ticket to a vehicle with an expired parking receipt or meter, they would be alerted as soon as they enter the license plate number when a person has paid through the mobile app.

Peverada said the city is still negotiating the cost of the mobile applications, but the hand-held devices for parking enforcement are being provided for free, because the vendor, Passport, will receive a $3 service charge on parking tickets issued by the city.

©2017 the Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.