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Originally published Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 9:07 PM

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Pay for on-street parking downtown with your phone

Seattle launched a new parking pay-by-phone initiative Thursday that allows drivers to use their phones to pay for on-street parking.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Downtown Seattle Association CEO Kate Joncas said surveys showed parking was one of the... MORE
PayByPhone users can also receive a text message reminding them when their parking time... MORE
To encourage parking turnover, the system will have a waiting period so users... MORE

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For an extra 35 cents, downtown Seattle parkers can rid themselves of searching for loose change and scraping sticky residue off their windows.

The city launched a new initiative Thursday that allows drivers to use their phones to pay for on-street parking.

PayByPhone can be used within the boundaries of Seneca Street, Olive Way, First Avenue and Ninth Avenue. The option, through a city vendor partner, will be expanded to other areas of the city by the end of the year.

Through PayByPhone, drivers don’t need to use a pay station or display a printed sticker. Parkers download the PayByPhone application and create an account, then enter their license-plate number and credit-card information.

When they want to park, they enter a five-digit location code printed on a sign next to each pay station, and the fee is automatically deducted from their account.

PayByPhone users can also receive a text message reminding them when their parking time is about to expire. If their meter hasn’t expired, they can add time remotely.

To encourage parking turnover, the system will have a waiting period so users can’t pay with the same location code right after their time expires.

Barrie Arnold, chief commercial officer of PayByPhone, called the smartphone “the meter of the future.” He said the pay-by-phone option allows people to feel more at ease about parking on the street.

“People can stay longer for coffee or dessert, or spend more time shopping because they know they’ll get a message,” Arnold said at a news conference Thursday.

Seattle police parking-enforcement officers will be able to see the payment status and license-plate numbers in real time on their enforcement equipment, so a printed receipt isn’t necessary.

The parking rules are the same as pay stations, with two exceptions. PayByPhone is not portable to other areas, so time in one area can’t be transferred to another block. And PayByPhone does not offer overnight prepayment between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Mayor Mike McGinn, who spoke at the news conference, said the technology was introduced to encourage more people to come downtown.

Downtown Seattle Association CEO Kate Joncas said surveys showed parking was one of the primary barriers preventing would-be downtown visitors.

“[PayByPhone] addresses that concern,” Joncas said.

Kristine Cela, who works at a Rex’s, a deli on Second Avenue, said parking is a daily struggle for visitors and commuters.

“The pay machines are a huge pain, because you have to have certain coins and you can’t use dollars,” said Cela, who usually walks downtown from Lower Queen Anne. “It’s frustrating.”

A phone option, she said, is “way more convenient.”

PayByPhone offers services in 180 North American and European cities, including Miami, Kansas City and London. The Vancouver, B.C.-based company’s revenue comes from the 35-cent convenience fee for each transaction, not from the city.

The Seattle Department of Transportation started working with PayByPhone in 2012 after a competitive vendor process, according to Mary Catherine Snyder, the department’s parking strategist. SDOT used $220,000 for enforcement and pay station software integration and program outreach.

Drivers can download the PayByPhone application from a smartphone app store.

If you don’t have a smartphone, you can use the pay-by-phone option by calling 1-888-515-7275, or at www.paybyphone.com.

Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2517 or pcornwell@seattletimes.com

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