News: Technology To Improve Beach Parking

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Longtime Miami Beach residents know that the City, for all its faults, has usually been ahead of the curve when it comes to applied technology in the service of the public. Parking, while a bane to many on South Beach, has been one area in which this has come into play, with consumer pre-paid parking cards to a pay-by-phone system to meters that accepted card payment well ahead of many other cities. When you consider the City’s efforts to create Beach-wide wifi, and Miami Beach could be considered a technological leader in public service terms.

Another inventive measure is soon to be introduced that will, once again, elevate Miami Beach and simultaneously make parking even easier for residents and visitors alike.

Rolling out sometime in the next few months, City Parking officials say a new app will enable motorists to seek out parking near their destination, determine availability in real time, and eventually to be able to pay through the very same app.

“We just finalized our agreement with Parkmobile and we should launch the full service in about 60 days,” said City of Miami Beach Parking Director Saul Frances.

The City of Miami Beach parking app is already available through the itunes store and work is underway to make it available on the Android platform as well.

“It’s very handy because it does show you real time parking availability,” Frances told SunPost. “Let’s say you’re going to Lincoln Road. The app can show you all [nearby] parking with real time availability in the garages. The technology isn’t there yet to show availability in parking lots.”

Parkmobile is the largest provider of such services in the world, Frances said.

When fully active, the app will have two distinct capacities. One is locating parking with turn-by-turn directions. After the official public roll-out in April or May, motorists will also be able to pay for parking via the app. A convenient option, Frances said, is that the app can be set up to notify parkers via text when their allotted time is running out, providing the option to instantly add time.

Until officially in full place, only the locating application is available, while payment will still have to be made on-site through the various measures currently in use.

Afterward, however, it will all be able to done via the app.

Additionally, the new technology did not cost taxpayers anything, and residents will be able to register for use of the app either on the Parkmobile website (http.us.parkmobile.com) or at the City Parking Department.

Either way, Frances said the app will retain the $1/hour rate that Miami Beach residents currently pay for parking. Proof of residency will be needed to qualify for the discount rate. Out-of-town visitors will pay the standard $1.75, regardless of how they access parking. The rate is consistent with the City’s current park-by-phone program.

Frances said Parkmobile’s financial interests will be covered by revenue from offering GPS service to transient pay-by-phone users and that resident rates will be in no way affected.

“This is a nice, convenient way to deal with parking,” Frances said. “We would much rather have parking money come through meters than through parking tickets. There is just bad PR associated with ticketing.”

Beach resident Rey Martinez only recently discovered the fledgling app.

“Too cool,” Martinez said. “It looks easy and convenient for those of us who move around the Beach a lot. It also shows Miami Beach is ahead of the curve. I don’t know if other cities are using technology as smartly and handily as Miami Beach is or not, but it feels like City Hall is on top of technology that really helps residents.”

Over the course of last year’s mayor and commission campaigns, new Mayor Philip Levine, a tremendously successful businessman, made numerous commitments. While the parking app might have been in development prior to the election, the issue of parking was one that the mercurial mayor promised to address. Given a unanimous commission decision last week to support his vision for renovation of the Miami Beach Convention Center, the parking improvement could be considered his second commitment fulfilled – in just weeks.

About Michael W Sasser

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