Columbia issuing fewer parking tickets, credits new app for decrease

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COLUMBIA - Residents have seen many changes to the city's parking over the last year and a half, and despite some initial confusion from residents, the city is seeing positive results.

Columbia is issuing fewer parking tickets after offering Parkmobile at every meter in the city.

The app allows users to put money in the meter remotely via credit card.

“As our Parkmobile usage has gone up, the amount of citations for parking violations has gone down," Transit and Parking Manager Drew Brooks said.

In October, the city expanded Parkmobile to every meter. The city issued around 5,000 parking tickets that month — the lowest it's been in four years.   

According to the most recent data from the city, the city issued around 1,000 fewer parking tickets in February of this year than February of last year. 

According to Brooks, as of March there are 5,573 Parkmobile users.

In January of 2016, there were 1,300 Parkmobile transactions. When the city expanded Parkmobile to every meter in October, that number was nearly 10 times larger. In March 2017, there were 25,998 Parkmobile transactions. 

According to the Parkmobile website, in Columbia the app accepts PayPal, Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express and Parkmobile Wallet.    

Brooks said the parking industry is changing very rapidly and mobile technology is at its forefront.    

“It’s actually very expensive to collect cash, to collect coins and to do that entire process," Brooks said. "So the entire industry is trying to look for ways to reduce the amount of coins and cash."  

The average amount of time paid for in a single transaction is 1 hour 57 minutes. However, most people still feed the meter the old fashioned way. 

“I can’t imagine an instance where we would ever get away from having coin as an option,” Brooks said. “There’s a lot of people who prefer to use that. But we want to provide as many different options as we can for our customers. 

The city originally had the EZ Park Card, but later switched to the CoMo Park Card. Brooks said the old system was unreliable and there were issues with card balances being refunded at different rates. With the CoMo Park Card, you only pay for the time used.  

“And we’re looking at some functionalities with the app to see if we can do something similar where you could actually kind of have a start, stop time on the app,” Brooks said. “We’re not quite there yet but we think that that’s an option that we’ll be able to add in the future.”

Brooks said the only issue with the app is that sometimes people enter their license plate number wrong. He also said they’ve had mixed reviews on the CoMo Park Cards. 

“We think that a lot of that is just kind of learning that new system, how it interacts with those double bay parking meters,” Brooks said. “We’re going to continue to try and educate folks and make sure that they understand how those two technologies interface with each other.”  

One Columbia resident said the city needs to spend time educating the public about the new app.  

“Even just passing out flyers or like being there so people can ask questions,” Holly Sturek said. “A lot of people will not do things unless they know that it’s gonna be convenient because in a college town time is everything.” 

Sturek said when she first tried to use the app she thought it was a way for you to know where to park. 

“Because the one time I tried to pay with it, it did not go, but it was probably a personal phone issue and not an app issue,” Sturek said. 

Ryan Wagner, 16, said the app is confusing and a hassle. 

“It’s just not easily accessible in my opinion and it’s not like a lot of people know about it anyway,” Wagner said. “A lot of people still use the change system.” 

Wagner said he thinks it’s a good idea for people to pay mobile, but the app is “just not good.”

“There’s so many areas where you can put a code in and it’s just it didn’t seem very easy to use,” Wagner said. 

However, one resident said the app is convenient.  

“That’s made my life way easier when I discovered that,” Kole Meehan. “I mean I’ll use coins if I have them, but I usually reserve that for laundry.” 

Meehan said he prefers it because he doesn’t have to carry change. 

“I can just get out, read the number and put it in and I’m parked,” Meehan said.   

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