Parking on campus can be a hassle for ISU students, faculty and staff, especially if their day is unpredictable. With classes that run long or the coffee line that’s taking too much time students don’t always have the time to go back to their car to pay the meter.
ISU students can avoid those dreaded parking tickets with the help of new meters installed on campus that enable commuters to pay for parking through their smartphone.
Commuters can add more time to their meters through an app called Parkmobile.
Approximately 500 of these meters, which were installed during the summer by the ISU Parking Division, are located at three pre-pay lots around campus: Lot 21 by the Armory, Lot 100 by Lied Recreation Center and the east campus parking deck.
How it works
Parkmobile is an app that enables user to pay for 503 meters at various locations on campus with Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express or PayPal.
Users can also sign up for Parkmobile Wallet through the app. With this, they can load up to $75 onto the app to make payments on meters.
Director of ISU Parking Division Mark Miller said there is a transaction fee of 35 or 15 cents per use. Miller said those who use Parkmobile Wallet will have a 15-cent fee, while those who use other payments will pay a 35-cent transaction fee.
The 75 cents per hour to park will still go to the Parking Division, but the transaction fee users pay will go toward the app company.
In order to use the app, users must also plug in the correct zone number for the lot they park in. Each lot has its own number; Lot 21 is 2710, Lot 100 is 2711 and the east parking deck is 2712.
Sessions cannot be stopped and a refund will not be granted once a user has selected the time and payment method. However, additional time can be added, up to the maximum the meter allows.
Miller said users can sign up for an alert that will notify the user when their time is running down.
“It will send you a text message that will say, ‘your meter will be expiring in 10 minutes. Would you like to extend the time?’” Miller said. “You can say yes, and that’s still considered the first transaction.”
Users can register for the app by downloading it for free onto their smartphone or online.
The app is compatible with Apple, Android, Windows and Blackberry phones.
How it all started
Dan Breitbarth, Student Government president, said Miller identified the need for a better option for students to park on campus.
“This is a technologically savvy way of going about parking,” Breitbarth said. “It gives students a convenient way of parking and it didn’t require that much initial capital to invest in this.”
Miller said a lot of the idea came from the students, in particular, their comments on being unable to pay the meter before receiving a ticket.
“In general, they’re doing something and don’t get back to the pre-pay lots,” Miller said.
Miller said they selected Parkmobile because of its good background with other universities in the country.
“The goal was to give [students] another option not only to extend time if their running late, but to purchase with the convenience of their phones,” Miller said.
Iowa State signed a three-year contract with the company, with an option to renew.
Miller said one of the main reasons Parkmobile was chosen because of its relatively low transaction fees.
“Student are our customers and we want to keep that transaction fee as low as possible,” Miller said.
Breitbarth said he and Megan Sweere, Student Government vice president, gave Miller their full support on the project.
So far, so good?
Miller said the meters have been used successfully so far without any major issues. He also said almost all of the meters are used at some point during the day.
Breitbarth said he has received nothing but positive feedback.
“A lot of students are ecstatic,” Breitbarth said. “A lot of students were anxious about that and even had to leave classes early. There’s an academic benefit to that, don’t have to leave classes early or show up late because they’re worried about paying for parking.”
Glenda Storms, 1991 ISU alumna, is a local vendor who visits campus to see clients and parks at these lots.
“I think it looks awesome,” Storms said. “It would be nice not to have to pull out my cup of coins every day. I can just plug it into my phone, and I don’t have to stand here in the hot sun or the driving rain or the cold.”
Miller said they are always looking for more options and that comes from the feedback the parking division gets from faculty and students.
“We always like student feedback, good or bad, but we want constructive feedback. Sometimes people just like to complain.”
Breitbarth said he and Sweere will continue to push for more of these meters on campus.
Miller said there are no official plans yet, but Parking Division hopes to enable all meters on campus to use this app.
Other Parking Division initiatives
Along with the Parkmobile app, Parking Division has also completed other initiatives during the last few years to improve people’s parking experience at ISU.
In 2013, Miller said they added the Smart Card. The Smart Card is a pre-paid card that works with any of the 767 meters on campus.
Miller said they also worked with the city of Ames, so students can use that Smartcard at any yellow meter in the city.
Smart Cards can be purchased at 27 Armory for a $5 fee and can be uploaded with up to $300 in funds. The city of Ames, however, allows only up to $50.
Push-button meters have also been installed in all free 30 minute parking spaces on campus. Drivers will push the button, and the meter will track 30 minutes on the space.
Miller said by installing these, there has been more turnover with drivers in the space. He also said it’s easier to enforce because ticket riders definitively know when a car has been parked in the space for longer than 30 minutes.
Public parking inside the gates on northern campus is now illegal, Miller said, since all vendor, departmental and medical parking has been removed from Osborn Drive.
Every meter has also been given a five-minute grace period for each use.Now, students will have five extra minutes on their time before they can receive a ticket.
Parking Division has also given upgrades to ticket writers, who can now take better photos at night. Additionally, tickets are uploaded to the system automatically.
Miller said the goal of these changes is to make people park legally on campus.
“Our revenue goes down as our fines go up, which is a good thing because people are more compliant,” Miller said. “That’s what we want.”