(TNS) — Parking in downtown Erie, Pa., has often been a frustrating gamble for Doug Ellis.

An outside sales representative for an Erie-area food company, Ellis, 46, is often downtown to meet with clients.

"I probably spent $200 on parking tickets last year because of meters expiring," Ellis said. "When I'm on a call sometimes, I don't know how long I'm going to be there, and I always seemed to come out to a nice, yellow ticket on my car."

Ellis said meterEZ has changed that.

The Millcreek Township resident is among the roughly 3,000 people who have downloaded the new smartphone application since it launched on Aug. 9. It allows people to pay for time at the city's 1,800 metered parking spaces by phone.

Those download estimates come from both the Erie Parking Authority and meterEZ, an Erie-based company affiliated with weCreate, a website design and digital marketing company.

Using the meterEZ app, people can punch in their meter number and use a payment method to put time on the meter. The technology requires no infrastructure changes or additional costs, and people can still use quarters at meters if they wish.

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Download the app here: https://t.co/57S2UqZMDa pic.twitter.com/yFbzQA372p

— ErieMultimedia (@ErieMultimedia) August 21, 2018

The pay-by-phone technology also notifies the user if the meter time is running out and more time needs to be purchased. The technology can be used at sites with existing meters because Parking Authority enforcement employees are equipped with hand-held devices that can tell them quickly if a vehicle has used the app to pay for parking.

"It's very convenient," Ellis said. "I can add time when the app tells me when the meter is about to expire. I probably spent $15 a week parking at meters. This is great."

Christopher Friday, the Parking Authority's deputy director, said about 220 people are using the app each day, and 100 new users download meterEZ daily. The app was part of the authority's long-range plan to update parking technology and make parking more convenient, especially in downtown Erie.

"People needed a solution, and this is one of those things that just makes sense," Friday said.

"We're very happy with it," Nate Wheeler of weCreate said. "I think the reception has been great."

Friday said the Parking Authority is still evaluating the performance and usage of two parking kiosks that were installed outside the Erie County Courthouse on West Sixth Street on Aug. 9. Those kiosks were installed as part of the authority's parking upgrades.

The machines allow motorists to pay for meter time using coins, cash, credit cards or prepaid cards. A number of parking spaces can be paid for using a single kiosk, and they can trigger text alerts if the user's meter time is expiring, officials have said.

©2018 the Erie Times-News (Erie, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.