Our View: New parking app isn’t free, but it’s handy

July 13, 2018

An example of the new Rochester pay-by-app parking decals, which differ by zone. The new parking program goes live today.

Pay-by-app parking arrives in Rochester today, three years after it went citywide in Minneapolis and in other metro areas. For those of us who never have the correct change in our pockets, it will make life easier downtown.

The city announced a partnership with private vendor Parkmobile LLC last week, and if all goes according to plan — green decals are attached to meters, the software and credit card authentication works as designed — you’ll be able to pay for your parking at about 1,500 meters in the city.

The app can be downloaded to Apple and Android devices, or you can use the website at ParkMobile.io.

“Convenient parking options make for a vibrant city,” the city’s parking and transit manager, Tony Knauer, told Post Bulletin Executive Editor Jay Furst. “Parkmobile is another option for our community and visitors to make it a little easier to for them to visit, shop, dine or do business in our downtown area.”

There’s a catch — there always is. It’s not free, and if you assume Parkmobile gets a cut of the parking revenue, you’re wrong. They get a transaction fee — 25 cents per transaction with credit card or PayPal, 20 cents if you sign up for the “ParkMobile Wallet,” and 15 cents if you’re willing to pay a membership fee.

For example, according to Jeff Perkins, of Atlanta-based Parkmobile, “If you pay for 90 minutes of parking, it would cost you $2.05 — that breaks down to $1.80 for parking and 25 cents for the transaction fee.”

Doing the math, which is never easy for us, that would be a 14-percent transaction fee for that parking privilege. But if you’re just parking for 5 minutes to run into Carroll’s Corn for a bag of cheddar popcorn, the percentage skyrockets. You may want to keep a few coins in your pocket.

Having the app on your phone can be helpful in other cities as well — seven of the 10 largest metro areas use this vendor, as do many sports and entertainment venues. The fees vary by city, but the company, which was acquired by the BMW German car group earlier this year, says it processes more than 60 million transactions per year, which is not chump change.

For the record, the 25-cent fee makes more sense when you’re paying $1.50 per hour at a meter just around the corner from the IDS Tower in downtown Minneapolis, which is why pay-by-app parking has taken some time to arrive in cities such as Rochester.

Also for the record, the city says Parkmobile estimates it will handle 6,000 to 7,500 transactions per month, about 20 percent of the total parking meter transactions.

Best feature of the new parking app? You can set a notification for when your time’s just about up.

For visitors as well as residents who don’t mind paying the surcharge, it’s another tiny step forward in making Rochester easier to enjoy.

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