Mobile payment options added to metered parking in downtown Lawrence have provided a new level of convenience for many shoppers and diners, but the change has left others fighting tickets and feeling frustrated.
The City of Lawrence launched the new payment options last spring as part of a larger parking management system that added mobile apps and kiosks to metered parking areas. The system was intended to improve downtown parking through added convenience, but also by enabling the city to collect data and adapt to accommodate needs.
Some app users, however, say the new system is generating unwarranted parking tickets that are difficult to appeal.
Kelly Speight doesn’t live or work downtown, but said she frequently visits the Lawrence Arts Center and supports downtown businesses whenever possible. She said was familiar with the mobile payment process after living in a larger city where feeding meters with coins was no longer an option, and was eager was eager to embrace the new system in Lawrence.
“It had been a struggle to retrain myself to carry coins around all the time,” she said. “But I’ve had problems with the app. When I questioned others in the community, it was clear that the problem was widespread. I decided not to use the app any longer. I’m back to quarters in the car.”
The city generally enforces metered parking and restricted lots downtown from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Parking is free on Sundays and holidays. In conjunction with the launch of the new parking management system last spring, parking rates increased, and fines for citations doubled from $5 to $10.
Joy Slavens said that when she visits downtown Lawrence she tries to find free parking, but sometimes metered spaces are the only option. She said she parked at a 10-hour meter just after 5 p.m. Dec. 9 and used a mobile app to pay for one hour of parking.
“If I’d had change on me I could have paid a dime, but instead I paid $1.60,” she said. “My receipt timed me out at 6, but I got a ticket at 5:24. I think it’s an app problem. It’s like the app didn’t inform the city that I was there.”
Parking Supervisor Brad Harrell said visitors have two mobile app options when paying for parking downtown. Passport Parking, which charges users a service fee of $.15 per transaction, and ParkMobile, which charges $.35 per transaction. Coins are also still accepted in all meters.
Harrell said there had been a “tremendous adoption rate” of the mobile payment option since the program was implemented, with 111,504 individual transactions from April through December. He said most of the citations issued could be attributed to user error, but enforcement had also struggled somewhat initially.
“In our initial rollout there were some bumps and bruises,” he said. “Most of the time a license plate is input wrong. Some are officer errors or payment made after time has expired.”
For those who do receive a citation, Harrell said the city had established a new, streamlined appeal process. Once a citation is issued, the recipient has 10 days to appeal online. Citations feature a red box with a link where users can enter information to be reviewed by the parking department. If an appeal is rejected, users then have the option of taking their case before a municipal court judge.
Citations appealed after the 10-day window must go through municipal court. Citation fines are not subject to late fees if payment is delayed by the appeals process.
But both Slavens and Speight said they have been unable to resolve appeals through that new process.
Slavens said she believed her ticket was the result of a fault within the app. She said she had successfully used ParkMobile earlier in the year while visiting another city. Although she received a receipt in December for her parking purchase in Lawrence, when she searched her transactions online, there was no record beyond June. She said she emailed the city Dec. 10, but got no response.
“I’ve yet to hear from anybody,” she said. “I’m seven weeks into this and not even a ‘we’re looking into it.’”
Speight said she had successfully fought one of the tickets she received through the online appeal process. A second ticket that was issued in late December, however, remains in limbo.
Though she had initially looked forward to the convenience of using the mobile apps, she is now wary of using them in Lawrence.
“I don’t know anything about parking systems, but I know the one I used almost daily in another city for decades never once erroneously issued me a ticket when I was paid up,” Speight said.
Anyone needing information or assistance can call the City of Lawrence Parking Office at 785-832-7590, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.