The smart-phone era has arrived at most of downtown Toledo's metered parking spaces.
Motorists who chafe at carrying enough quarters to pay for metered parking -- or who find their downtown meetings running longer than expected -- now can pay meters and get email notices when their time is expiring through a service provided by a Downtown Toledo Parking Authority contractor.
Except in 15-minute parking zones, each of the 955 parking meters in downtown Toledo now has a sticker with a Quick Response code that may be scanned by any smart phone with a QR application installed. The code links the phone to Atlanta-based ParkMobile's Web site, where the user may set up an account and pay for parking.
It's not free. For its trouble, ParkMobile receives a 35-cent fee for every transaction, including the purchase of extension time if a parking patron does not buy the maximum two hours up front and later decides to extend his or her parking time. So parking for two hours, which would cost $2 if paid the traditional way, costs $2.35 using the smart-phone method -- or more if paid in multiple installments.
Someone expecting to park for just a short time is certainly better off just popping a quarter or two into a parking meter. And those who are leery of shipping their credit-card and license-plate information over the Internet may still pay using coins or, at certain meters, credit cards or ParkSmart key cards.
But those who are in a hurry or aren't sure how long that downtown meeting will be may find it convenient to use the smart-phone system rather than get stuck with a $10 parking ticket for overtime parking -- or failing to feed the meter at all.
The system does not allow people to buy parking at the same location for more than the posted two-hour time limit -- consistent with the parking authority's desire to keep parking spaces available for downtown shoppers and visitors while steering office workers to its garages or privately run surface lots.