Drivers in Dubuque can soon pay meters by phone - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Drivers in Dubuque can soon pay meters by phone

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Drivers in Dubuque will soon be able to feed the downtown parking meters by cell phone.

Starting in mid-June, Dubuque's existing parking meters will each get a sticker displaying a phone number and that meter's specific code.

The company is called Passport Parking, and drivers will be able to set up an account linked to a credit card. They can then either call the number and add money by credit card or download the smartphone app, also called Passport Parking, and feed the meter through that.

Tim Horsfield, Dubuque's parking division manager, said the initial setup costs will be less than $5,000, allowing meter rates to stay where they are.

"We looked into some of the other options that were out there, of the pay-by-space and the individual meters that you can use a credit card on, and we found that they were just too expensive for us," Horsfield said. "We want to keep our rates as low as we can, and we think in order to do that we were going to have to increase rates substantially to be able to cost-effectively do that."

Funding for the initial setup costs will come strictly from parking division user fees, such as money from parking tickets, garages and permits.

Costs to continue operating the system will come in the form of a 25-cents-per-use transaction fee. However, people can pay for the maximum amount of allowable time on any given meter in one transaction.

Horsfield said cities using this system have seen meter fee revenue increases anywhere from four to 10 percent.

"Because of the convenience, they'll load the maximum time," Horsfield said of drivers, continuing on to explain that if a person pays for the full time and leaves before that's expired, the next person won't know. Some of the increased revenue comes from these double payments.

When paying by cell phone, the physical meter will continue to flash the "expired" sign, but Horsfield said new technology for parking meter enforcers will allow them to see whether a particular meter has been paid by phone.

"It may show 'expired,' but as we put that meter number into our enforcement handhelds, Passport will have fed the information to us that: 'No, they've paid by way of credit card now and that meter is paid,'" Horsfield said.

Don't think you can keep plugging your meter from the comfort of your downtown office, however. Meters have maximum amounts of time so downtown restaurants and shops can see a regular turnover of customers.

"Every meter will have a maximum time programmed to it," Horsfield said of the new system. "We've been working with Dubuque Main Street, and they'd like us to be able to program a little bit extra time, so you won't be able to add another two hours but maybe another 15 minutes."

He also said businesses can set up a validation system with Passport Parking and pay a designated amount of their customers' parking.

Of course, paying with coins or the city's existing cash card program will still be options.

Horsfield said he ordered 180 new meters this week for the core of downtown Dubuque's Millwork District, which currently has no meters. Expected delivery is six to eight weeks, he said.

Those will bring Dubuque's total number of meters up to 2,000.

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