By Seth Daniel
Special to the Gazette
Drivers looking to avoid a parking ticket would do well to pick up their smart phones, and put away the rolls of quarters.
City officials, and most especially thousands of drivers, are hailing the new ParkBoston smart phone application this spring, just as the convenient piece of technology looks to break a milestone and perhaps hit 300,000 transactions by the end of this month.
The Mission Hill neighborhood and the Longwood Medical Area have meters along parts of Huntington and Brookline avenues, as well as other streets.
Use of the app, which was rolled out by Mayor Martin Walsh in his State of the City speech in January 2015 through a nine-week pilot program in the Back Bay, has skyrocketed, according to figures provided to this reporter recently (at the same time they were provided to the Boston Globe for a similar story). Since the City retrofitted every meter in the entire City to work with the ParkBoston app last November, every month has seen more than 200,000 transactions from people using the app – with 291,670 coming in March and 300,000 possibly coming by the end of April.
“We’re very, very, pleased with the performance of the app,” said Boston Transportation Director Gina Fiandaca. “We’ve had 219,000 downloads of the app and more than two million transactions. I would say it’s definitely exceeding our expectations at this point.”
The ParkBoston app works completely on the smart phone via the app or the Internet. People can download the app, enter the license plates of their vehicles and start an account. A credit or debit card can be entered to keep on file, and charges go directly to that card. When parking, one pulls up the app on the phone, choosing the vehicle, enters the zone (which is identified on the meter) and chooses the time they want to park. If they don’t choose the maximum of two hours, one can choose to add time to the meter without leaving the comforts of their office or home. It’s all done on the phone.
Gone are the days of rushing out of a meeting or during a commercial break to the meter before the time expired. For residents, the app has been convenient for occasional parking in the neighborhood or when picking something up downtown.
Tim Horn of the Fenway said that when he drives, he has found the app to be extremely helpful compared to the old way of doing things.
“Although I rarely park in the city I have used it to make pick-ups from stores on Boylston Street from time to time,” he said. “It’s very nice to be able to add value when you are stuck waiting in a line and you do not have to sweat getting a ticket for overstaying your 15 or 30 minutes that you had estimated would be enough time to accomplish your mission. Also, it’s nice to not dig for change. The only parking ticket I have got in Boston came when I parked and ran into a store to get change for the meter. It took one minute, but I was already written up.”
Such stories are common for those choosing to use the new system, and it’s evident from the usage numbers. In January 2015, when the app rolled out in the Back Bay, there were only 2,185 transactions. By July 2015, there were more than 100,000 transactions, with 104,171. By December 2015, when the entire city parking meter array had been retrofitted to work with the app, some 249,880 transactions took place.
The numbers so far this year look like this:
- January – 242,163
- February – 251,931
- March – 291,670
At the same time, net revenues are increasing as well for the app. There is a convenience fee charged by the app, which is carved out of the gross revenue figures, but even with that more money is coming in using the app each week.
Net revenues using the app started at $4,275 in January 2015, and hit $528,969 by December 2015.
In March of this year, the app topped the $600,000 mark, generating $612,179 in net revenues for the month.
Fiandaca said overall the City is collecting more in revenues at parking meters, which now can also be paid for with a credit card or with traditional coins. At the same time, she said they are writing fewer tickets, which is being termed a win-win.
The overall budget number for this year in parking meter collections (using any method of payment) is expected to be $15.5 million. Last year’s budget number for the same item was at $14 million. The app produced $2.692 million in net revenues in 2015 and, up to April 16, has produced $1.82 million in net revenues this year.
“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback,” she said. “It’s a huge convenience for customers to pay for meter parking with a smart phone application simply by downloading the app. One of the keys was getting the information to the enforcement officer immediately. When you pay for a meter, that information is transmitted instantly to the enforcement officer so the people don’t get tickets they don’t deserve due to the lag time in transmission of data. That was a big thing to work out. We’re very pleased to be able to offer the app and are pleased that people are using it.”