Austin Warms to an App That Feeds Parking Meters
By Katherine Heighway
AUSTIN—A smartphone app that lets people replenish their parking time without traipsing to the meter is gaining traction in Austin, with usage rising 289 percent in less than a year.
The use of ParkX, which the city introduced in March 2016, grew to 70,000 in January from 18,000 transactions in its first month, said Marissa Monroy, a public information and marketing manager for the Austin Transportation Department, in a telephone interview.
ParkX is owned by Arizona-based Passport Inc. The app began life as a pilot program in Tucson in 2013 and was installed on meters near the University of Texas campus in 2016. The city has since installed the app on the rest of Austin’s meters, said Joseph Al-Hajeri, a city permit and licensing analyst who oversees the app’s contract, in a telephone interview. He said about 13 percent of all meter transactions are being made through the app.
“It’s doing great. It’s been received very well, and it’s growing,” Al-Hajeri said.
Every time someone uses the app, a 25-cent transaction fee is tacked on. Passport keeps 20 cents, and the city gets a nickel. Al-Hajeri said the city has collected over $20,000 since last March. That’s not much considering that income from parking meters was $9.9 million during the 2015-16 fiscal year, according to the city budget. Convenience over revenue was part of the plan, he said.
“The goal was never to profit from the program,” Al-Hajeri said.
Ashland Viscosi, 31, owns Creatives Meet Business, an Austin-based company that hosts events and produces podcasts. She often uses parking meters and also uses ParkX.
She said in a telephone interview that the app “alerts me five minutes before it’s about to expire, which is epic.”
Al-Hajeri said the city plans to extend the app to the city’s parks and parking garages.