Addressing a parking problem

App to enable drivers to PayByPhone in Lynbrook

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Village of Lynbrook officials finalized a contract last week to authorize implementation of a smartphone app that will enable users to pay for parking with their credit and debit cards at more than 600 meters, instead of pumping quarters into the machines.

Representatives of the PayByPhone app met with department heads in the village, including Public Works Supervisor Phil Healy and Police Chief Joseph Neve, on May 15 to discuss the next steps in the process. The app will not replace the meters, but will serve as an alternative for drivers. In addition to paying 25 cents per half hour — the current price of meters — users will be charged an additional 25 cents per transaction.

“It will be a full village rollout,” said Adam Kriegel, the PayByPhone sales director. On May 15, he added, “I drove around and mapped out all the meters and the zones to give us a starting point.”

Kriegel said that the targeted launch would be at the end of June, but noted that the system might not be ready until July 1.

PayByPhone will be linked to all metered parking spots in the village. Users will be able to add a vehicle to the app by entering a license plate number, state and type of vehicle. They will also have the option to add a photo and a description of the vehicle.

When users access the app, they will be prompted to input their location numbers, listed on the meters. They will be notified of any time limits and asked to enter the number of minutes they want to pay for a spot. They will also have the option to store their credit cards on the app for future use and receive an email receipt. In addition, they will be able to access countdown timers to see when their meters will expire, and add more time remotely, without having to return to the meter.

Most spaces in the village have time limits, such as two-hour parking zones, however. Mayor Alan Beach said that officials also have an agreement with Regal Cinemas that there must be 695 parking spaces in the village that permit four-hour parking when the new theater, on Merrick Road, opens, likely in June. Beach noted that spaces near Atlantic Avenue businesses would remain two-hour parking zones, to allay store owners’ concerns.

“Some of the merchants were saying that they could sit there all day,” Beach said of drivers using the app, “but they can’t. We want the merchants to be happy, and we’ll keep it at two hours.”

Village officials will be able to set time-limit regulations for each zone. Because the app recognizes vehicles by their license plates, it will not enable users to renew their sessions if they have gone over the time limit, unless they move to another zone. The app will also record real-time data that will enable village officials to monitor parking trends.

PayByPhone was created in 2001, and originally offered patrons the ability to pay for parking via a phone call or text. It was acquired by Volkswagen Financial Services in December 2016, and has 17 million users, garners $345 million in annual parking revenue and processes 70 million transactions per year in more than 300 cities, including Boston, Miami and Seattle. Last year, Tarrytown, in Westchester County, became the first municipality in New York to roll out the app. Lynbrook will become the first Long Island municipality to accept it, though East Rockaway and other areas have used a parking app called Whoosh!

“Lynbrook is a great place to start for a few reasons, but the coin meters are really at the top of that list,” said Kriegel, who grew up in Commack. “The fact that they have all coin meters put them on my radar.”

The app is also used in cities such as London and Paris, and as well as in parts of Australia. Each municipality has the option to customize the service. In Miami, residents are offered a discount for paying for parking via the app, while non-residents are not. In Vancouver, residents are afforded more time to remain in spots than non-residents. Beach said that village officials have not looked into those options, however.

Lynbrook police officers will also be able to integrate the system they use to track parking violations with the app. If a parking space is lit in red on a device, it means the time has expired. If it is green, the driver has paid for the time.

“It’s just a sea of rectangles, and they’re lit up green or red accordingly,” Kriegel said. “That tells police if there’s a valid parking session or not. They were happy to see that we were integrated with that.”

Kriegel first approached Village Clerk John Giordano about bringing the app into Lynbrook in February. He met with Beach and the board of trustees on March 5, and they unanimously voted to move forward with it.

Once the zones and meters are mapped out, Kriegel said, PayByPhone representatives will test the app a week or two before the launch to make sure all available spots are listed correctly.

Beach said he prefers implementing the app to overhauling the parking meters to accept credit cards, because that option would be too expensive. He noted that the meters now in place will soon accept nickels and dimes instead of only quarters, and that he believes the app will make parking easier for commuters.

“I think people are ready to get into the 21st century,” Beach said. “Change is sometimes good.”