Parking App Goes Live in St. Augustine, Fla.

Instead of placing a piece of paper their dashboards, people just enter their license plate number into the app and the zone that they're in.

by Sheldon Gardner, The St. Augustine Record / January 31, 2019
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(TNS) — St. Augustine, Fla.'s new parking app has gotten its first days of operation under its belt, and more changes are coming to the city's parking system.

"We believe we've had a successful soft launch," said Reuben Franklin Jr., the city's mobility program manager.

The app launched on Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store. It's available for download for free and can be used for city parking spaces with a pay station or parking meter. The city garage isn't part of the app yet — that's still being worked into the system and should be done this year, Franklin said.

Using the app, people add their vehicle license plate numbers and pay for parking time using a credit or debit card. Instead of placing a piece of paper their dashboards, people just enter their license plate number into the app and the zone that they're in, which is listed on pay stations near parking spaces.

"Transactions made with the app are instantly available to parking enforcement personnel through their wireless handheld devices," according to parkstaug.com.

The city plans to put up more signs with zone information.

Paying with the app is just an alternative to paying at a pay station, said Franklin, who's managing the launch with city contractor Passport Labs. The city will keep pay stations to give people an alternative to the app.

"We always have to have a mechanism for those folks as well," Franklin said. "We can't isolate people because we're using the latest and greatest technology."

The launch has sparked questions on social media and elsewhere.

Franklin said one of the most common questions is whether the city's ParkNow card is going away. That's the card the city offers to residents for a discount on parking rates.

It's not going away soon, he said. The city hasn't set a date when they'd like to phase it out, but eventually the technology upgrades will make the cards unnecessary, Franklin said.

The city will switch to a pay-by-license-plate-number method at all pay stations, possibly in about a month, he said. At some point, residents who don't use the app will type their license plate numbers into a pay station, and discounts will be provided without using the ParkNow card.

Right now the ParkNow card is the only way to get the resident discount at the parking garage because the garage is not part of the app yet.

The app provides the resident discount automatically to people who register for the discount via parkstaug.com. The parking rates and hours of enforcement haven't changed, but the app charges a convenience fee.

On Wednesday, several people said they had yet to use the app. Some hadn't heard of it.

"I'm all for it," said Brian Bowman, a St. Augustine resident who said he hadn't tried the app and is usually able to find free parking downtown.

Government officials in St. Augustine Beach and St. Johns County are looking into adding paid parking systems. St. Augustine would like to coordinate parking apps to make a regional system, Franklin said.

"We specifically branded the ParkStAug (app) to not look specifically like the city of St. Augustine," he said.

This year looks to be a busy one for parking changes.

He expects the city's pay stations to become pay-by-plate systems in February — that includes adding a keyboard to allow people to type in their license plate numbers. Once the pay-by-plate system is in place, the city will remove the coin-operated parking meters, leaving just signs and pay stations with zone information, he said.

Franklin also plans to bring a proposal to city commissioners after the spring event season for changing the fees for parking to get more people to use the parking garage. He also plans to propose different fees for busy times, such as during events.

Other updates coming for the mobile app: push notifications to let people know of important details, such as when the parking garage is full.

"Everything's going in the direction of trying to give the end user the best information to park efficiently in town," he said.

©2019 The St. Augustine Record, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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