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New Louisville Parking Program Requires a Phone and Credit Card (and Won't Take Change)


Some motorists—namely, people who don't have a mobile phone or credit card—are being excluded from a new pilot parking program in downtown Louisville.The program, which will likely be expanded to other parts of the city, launched about two weeks ago on a previously free-to-park two-block stretch of Preston Street near Slugger Field. The pilot program looks to cut down on costs that come along with installing and maintaining meters, said Tiffany Smith, director of Parking Authority of River City, or PARC. Meters can cost as much as $500.The spots are the next phase of the Passport program that encourages motorists to pay for metered parking via phone. What makes the new spots on Preston Street different is that there are no meters—meaning there's no way to pay with coin or cash. Related: Where Are Louisville's Most-Ticketed Parking Meters?Marked only by a sign, the parking spots inform drivers who wish to park to use a smartphone app or website to pay the $1.25 per hour rate.  Drivers without a smartphone are encouraged to dial a local number.Smith said the new spots are “innovative” and “extremely more cost effective.”As of January 2014, 10 percent of American adultsdidn't have a cell phone, according to the Pew Research Internet Project. What if you don’t have a phone or access to electronic payment?“You don’t park there,” Smith said. “If you don’t want to park there because you’re not innovative thinking you go to the next block.”What Smith and local parking officials see as an innovative approach to parking, some motorists see as a confusing inconvenience.“Paying by phone isn’t super convenient because not everybody has a smartphone,” said Elizabeth Smith, who works near the area.Elizabeth Smith said she took advantage of the free street parking before the signs were installed, but she hasn’t parked on the street since the signs have been around.  Now, she parks a block away in the Slugger Field parking lot.For starters, she doesn't park on Preston Street because it’s not free anymore.  Secondly, she said people struggle to “understand how the new system is working.”“Nobody I know has been able to understand how they would ticket you for it, how they would know exactly,” she said.   She said that more inconveniences can arise if someone is at work and can’t check their phone to see the status of their payment, or if they have issues logging on to the website.

And now, since the new requirements are in place, an area that was once full of cars each day is clear of vehicles.“I haven’t seen a single car parked there since it started,” said Jimmy Clemments, who also works in the area.  He added the stretch of Preston Street “used to be totally lined with cars.”Public parking expert Donald Shoup, an urban planning professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of the book "The High Cost of Free Parking," said the idea of parking programs that only allow motorists to pay electronically is not totally obscene.“It’s probably where the world is going because it’s so much cheaper than having meters at every space,” he said.  He said a similar parking program is being used in Galveston, Texas—the difference is that people who have no phone and wish to park in a Pay-By-Cell can do so by stopping in to a local business.“They will make the payment for you,” Shoup said. Tiffany Smith said that if people don’t want to or don’t have the necessary tools to park at the newly established parking spots, they can find another spot.“Literally, within a block, there are thousands of other spaces that don’t require cell phones, it’s not like that’s your only option,” she said.And she added that she foresees the pilot program expanding to other areas of the city.“It’s a pilot area, but it will not be the last area,” she said.  “It’s the wave of the future.”

Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.