Articles

Santa Rosa, Calif., Scraps Mobile Parking Program

There was just one problem with the pay-by-phone parking app rolled out by the city last fall -- no one used it.

by Kevin McCallum, The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa / May 11, 2015

(TNS) -- It was supposed to make it easier to pay for parking in downtown Santa Rosa, Calif.

It promised to let people add more time to parking meters from anywhere.

And it offered merchants a way to pay their customers’ parking tabs.

There was just one problem with the pay-by-phone parking app rolled out by Santa Rosa last fall. No one used it.

The city last week scrapped web-based application, citing several shortcomings.

A 90-day pilot project with MobileNOW! began in August and was later extended to a full year.

But usage remained low in large part because the app didn’t prove convenient enough, said Kim Nadeau, the city’s parking manager.

It required people to download the app and pre-load money onto an e-wallet, from which parking fees could then be paid electronically.

But people resisted that process because they didn’t like the pre-pay feature, preferring instead a method allowing paid parking on a per-use basis.

“We wanted that to be really easy, and it was not,” Nadeau said. “It was a real challenge for people.”

In addition, the app allowed merchants to pay for customers’ parking, but only if customers had already set up a MobileNOW! account, Nadeau said.

But those signed up were few and far between.

There were just 34 active MobileNOW! accounts in Santa Rosa in April, down from a paltry peak of 41 in December.

On average, the app was being used just twice a day in April, Nadeau said

The city chose to do a pilot project specifically because it wanted to see how people would react to the app and how well it would integrate with the city’s own parking enforcement system before it spent any money on a long-term program. The integration went fine, it was just the usage that flopped, Nadeau said.

MobileNOW! has enjoyed its relationship with the city and is “reviewing a number of options” said John Oglesby, CEO of the Bayside N.Y.-based company.

The cost of the pilot program was born by the company and users through fees, with the city paying only for staff time to manage and analyze it, Nadeau said.

The city will now contact other companies that submitted competing proposals, and will try to have another vendor in place by Aug. 6, though there may be a gap in service, Nadeau said.

©2015 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.