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Pay-by-phone parking system goes citywide

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news River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The pay-by-phone parking system tested in the Phipps Lot last fall will be expanded to the entire downtown, following a decision by the Hudson City Council Monday night.

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The council voted 4-2 to contract with Passport Parking to provide the service, and opted to go with a 40-cent per transaction fee instead of a monthly flat rate of $350.

Motorists will pay 25 cents of the transaction fee. The other 15 cents will be subtracted from the parking fees the city receives.

The city experimented with the program by the Charlotte, N.C., tech company last September in the city lot on First Street between Pier 500 restaurant and The Phipps Center for the Arts.

At the end of the pilot program, the City Council was ready to extend it to all of the metered parking spaces in the downtown. But then the company said it needed to increase its fee to 30 cents per transaction, plus 2.9 percent of the amount paid for parking.

In January, the council voted to drop the service instead of going along with the fee increase. But council members said Passport could keep its stickers on the meters in the Phipps Lot while it worked on a fee structure more palatable to the city.

The program allows motorists to download an app to their smart phone and use a debit or credit card to pay for their parking. A sticker on the meter also provides a number they can call to pay by phone.

Motorists still have the option of paying by inserting coins into the meter.

Brandon Rivard of Passport Parking made the case for expansion of the program in a Finance Committee meeting prior to the council meeting, and again during the council meeting.

He said it would increase the city’s parking revenue, more than making up for the city’s share of the transaction fee or the monthly charge.

Rivard said other cities have seen an increase of 10 percent in parking revenue in the first year. That’s because people remain parked longer and sometimes pay for a space that a departed motorist has paid for, too.

Council President Rich Vanselow, who along with Alderperson Randy Morrissette II voted against the expansion, said he didn’t see the system as a benefit to the city that justified the cost. He said it would be a convenience for some motorists and a benefit to downtown businesses, and they should bear the expense.

Mayor Alan Burchill suggested that credit or debit card payment may be required for all parking eventually.

“My recommendation is that we try it,” he said.

Alderperson Lori Bernard said plugging meters adds to the charm of the downtown, and that she doesn’t necessarily want Hudson to be like downtown Minneapolis.

When the issue came to the full council, Bernard moved to proceed with the program, choosing the per-transaction fee.

Bernard asked how many mobile-pay transactions had taken place during the September pilot program in the Phipps Lot, and was told there were 26.

At a cost of 15 cents per transaction, the city’s share of the fee for that many transactions would be $3.90.

“I don’t want to pay $350 (per month) if we’re having very little usuage initially,” Bernard said.

Alderperson Mary Yacoub expressed optimism that the program will increase city parking revenue. She noted that it will be expanded to all 335 metered spaces in the downtown, versus the 54 spaces in the Phipps Lot.

“We’re growing and we need to move with the times a little,” Yacoub said.

Alderperson John Hoggatt also advocated for expansion of the program, and he disagreed with Vanselow’s statement that downtown businesses should pay for the program.

“One of the reasons people come to Hudson is that we have a downtown,” Hoggatt said.

Yacoub added that providing mobile payment for parking is tourist friendly.

She said the contract with Passport Parking should be written so the city’s monthly payment to the company is capped at $350.

Bernard noted that the city doesn’t charge for parking during the times when the demand for it is the highest -- evenings and weekends.

Alderpersons Bernard, Hoggatt, Yacoub and Kurt TeWinkel voted for expanding the Passport Parking system.

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Hudson Star Observer 715-386-9891 customer support
Randy Hanson has reported for the Star-Observer since 1997. He came to Hudson after 11 years with the Inter-County Leader at Frederic, and eight years of teaching social studies. He’s a graduate of UW-Eau Claire.
(715) 426-1066
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