Those visiting Lewes may soon be able to hold onto their quarters.
Lewes Mayor and City Council earmarked $20,000 in its fiscal year 2015 budget to implement a pay-by-phone method for parking at metered spaces or in city lots. Further research will be done, but the money is available if council decides to move forward.
“It's the convenience factor, and it's the way people are moving today,” said Deputy Mayor Ted Becker. “I doubt many of our residents will use it, but I would suspect a whole lot of our visitors would.”
City Manager Paul Eckrich said the city has spoken to representatives from two companies offering the service. One of those companies is ParkMobile, the largest such company in the world, with a presence in Washington, D.C., London and more than 100 other cities and universities around the world. It is also the same company the City of Rehoboth Beach contracted with in 2012.
“Rehoboth loves the company,” said Eckrich, noting he spoke to staff in the city's meter enforcement and IT departments.
Eckrich said about 20 percent of those parking in Rehoboth Beach use the ParkMobile app on their smart phones. The other 80 percent still use quarters. The number of app users has increased, though.
“It's a growing market, a growing industry,” Eckrich said.
When a motorist pulls into a metered parking space or lot, he or she will type the number associated with the space or lot into the phone application and the transaction will be processed through the user's credit card. A small service fee is charged for the company and addition fees can be added for the city.
The meter will read as expired, but enforcement personnel will have the technology to check whether the car is registered and paid through the app.
Eckrich said the downside of the plan is the costs associated with it. A less expensive approach would at least require the purchase of smart phones or tablets for enforcement personnel. If council would prefer to follow the lead of Rehoboth Beach, the city would buy a Bluetooth device to print violations. He estimates the cost to be no more than $20,000.
Because of the training required for enforcement personnel, Eckrich suggested the city implement the program mid-summer. That would also provide enough time to place stickers on meters as well as signage in metered areas – provided by the company – and allow the city time to educate the public on upcoming changes.
Council earmarked money, but has not committed to moving forward with the program. Councilwoman Bonnie Osler said it would be a good idea. She said she familiarized herself with ParkMobile when visiting D.C.
“It is easy to use, easy to navigate,” she said. “I can see this being an attractive service, particularly as people become more comfortable doing things like this.”
The new budget year begins April 1.