a peek inside the fishbowl

16 Jul, 2013

App alert! A new way of making parking a little easier

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Oh! Things!

How do you feel about downtown parking? Me, I kind of hate it. I don’t like the traffic. I don’t like the overpacked and overpriced lots. I don’t like circling for a spot, and I HATE the stress and pressure that comes with parallel parking. Hate it. (But that’s another post altogether, but I will say that I’ve tried Ford’s hands-free parking and I secretly love it.)

I don’t know if you’ve been downtown recently (for all I know some of you have been avoiding it altogether) but parking meter technology has changed. Once upon a time the old coin-fed meters ran out when they ran out, no matter who parked there. There were many occasions that I found myself parking at a meter that hadn’t expired yet. (Score!) And because I felt like I needed to restock my karma after that happened, I sometimes even fed meters that were about to expire with stray quarters I’d find in the lining of my pockets.

Well, THOSE haven’t been around for awhile. I guess the city wasn’t making enough money. The new parking meters don’t allow users to piggyback on someone else’s leftover time. When they were first installed I did however appreciate the fact that they took credit cards, and I always use this option. Frustratingly enough, they didn’t always work for me. Maybe I’m cursed, but there have been times that my card wouldn’t read, which is never fun when there’s a lineup forming behind me.

Awhile back I noticed that the side of the parking meters said something about a parking app, and I meant to check it out but never remembered to do so… that is, until I received an email from the fine folks at PayByPhone.


Chris from PbP offered to pay for my parking if I tried out the app. I had a business lunch that week, so heck, why not? I knew this was a City of Ottawa sanctioned app, so I knew it wasn’t a fly-by-night operation and could trust it.

The benefits of paying through the app are enormous for me:

  • I don’t need to pull out my wallet.
  • It will text me a reminder when my meter is about to expire…
  • … at which point I can extend my parking time by phone.
  • And I can view and print all my parking receipts online. (Bonus at tax time!)

So consider this real-life scenario. I am heading to a work-related lunch and I luckily find street parking near the restaurant at which we are supposed to meet. (AND I didn’t need to parallel park!) Instead of feeding the meter I punch in the location number on the app (each meter has an assigned number) and how much time I want to buy. I don’t want to overfeed the meter since it can be extended so easily, so I opt for an hour. (As a bonus, it tells me where the meter is located. No more searching for my car! Er, not that this has EVER happened to me. No siree.)

I’m in the meeting, and I receive a text after an hour letting me know that my meter is about to expire. I hit a button and select a new time. Voila. I’m done.

There are a couple things worth noting here. (1) I did have to open an account beforehand, but that didn’t take a lot of time at all. (2) The app won’t let you go beyond the “allowable” time on that specific meter. So if you’re in an area that only allows two hours, that’s your max. (3) The app is free, but there is a small service charge per transaction. These range from $0.00 to $0.45 depending on the parking spot and the services you use (i.e. text message reminders, receipts etc.). The system will confirm back the total cost upon each transaction. I happen to think it’s worth $0.35 (I think that’s what the example above cost me) to avoid having to run back to feed my meter in the middle of a meeting.

Anyway, yes! Thank you PayByPhone for letting me try out your cool app!

What about you Fishies? Have you tried this app yet?

1 Response to "App alert! A new way of making parking a little easier"

1 | Paula

July 16th, 2013 at 6:37 pm


In Paris, they have an app to alert you to a vacant parking space. Now that would be sweet to have in Ottawa!

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