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If All Goes To Plan, Every Parking Meter In Dallas Will Be Payable By Mobile By Year's End.

By Pete on Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 9:15 AM

Turns out those amended Deep Ellum parking meters we noticed last week are part of a massive change currently underway with the city's metered parking system.

City officials confirm this week that Dallas' entire metered parking system will be upgraded in the coming months to allow drivers to pay for street parking on their mobile devices. If all goes according to plan, every meter in the city should fall under this new payment option umbrella by December.

This change, which was approved by city council in October 2012 and which is being implemented by the parking enforcement arm of the Dallas Police Department in tandem with the mobile parking payment company PayByPhone, will give drivers three separate payment options when parking their cars at city-run meters. Drivers will now be able to choose between the following methods when paying for parking: They can go the traditional route of paying for parking with coins; they can call a toll-free number (1-888-680-7275) to pay for their meter by credit card; or they can download the PayByPhone app, sync up their credit card to the system, and pay for their parking via their mobile device.

The first meters in Dallas to be upgraded to this system were in the West End, which saw its neighborhood's meters affixed with signage indicating these new payment options three weeks ago. Deep Ellum's meters came next, with their sticker installations coming last week. The next neighborhoods scheduled for integration into this PayByPhone system are, in order: The Jefferson Boulevard Corridor, Victory Park, the hospital districts, any and all remaining outlying neighborhoods, and, finally, the central business district of Downtown Dallas.

City officials warn, though, that, while the plan is, in fact, to implement the upgrades in each of these neighborhoods by December, factors such as inclement weather may delay the process some. Affixing each and every meter in the city with signs explaining these new parking payment options is a tedious process that takes time, those officials say.

"Every single sticker on every single meter is going to be removed and replaced," says Paul Curington, manager of parking enforcement for the Dallas Police Department. "And we have to check every meter to make sure it works, too."

"We're literally going one meter at a time," adds Donzell Gipson, assistant director of the Dallas Police Department's financial contract and management division.

This new mobile payment option play isn't an altogether new one in Dallas. Officials say that five of its city-owned parking lots have been using the PayByPhone method for a few years now, and that the three city-owned ones along the westernmost edge of Deep Ellum have been using this payment method exclusively for the past few months. The system was implemented in these Deep Ellum lots, Curington says, as a deterrent against cash-box robberies.

The payment method changes coming to street meters are being implemented for altogether different reasons -- mainly customer convenience and payment compliance, according to Gipson -- but they could face complications of their own as users become accustomed to the changes.

Given that the meters themselves are not being swapped out -- only the instruction stickers on them are -- payments made by phone or by the PayByPhone mobile app will not be reflected in the timers atop these parking meter whatsoever. Instead, payments will register in real-time on the handheld devices used by parking enforcement officers as they make their rounds across the city, Curington says.

The city currently has no timetable for updating the meter heads to reflect mobile- and phone-made payments.

"The average smartphone user who has downloaded an app before won't have an issue [with this new system]," Gipson says. "The world's going paperless. We're kind of in this transition period. Parking technology has been changing considerably, and we think this is a great enhancement. Instead of finding a ticket when you get out [to your car], if you pay attention to your phone, you'll get a notification [when your meter is almost up]. Smartphones are a dime a dozen these days. They're the way of the future, and this is Dallas' step toward that future. This isn't a short-term fix. This is the bridge to wherever we're going. We expect [this method] to be a part of the [city's] future. We think it's a great enhancement."

Adds Curington, who says he has been personally testing the PayByPhone system for eight months at this point: "We're trying to stay ahead of the situation."

One more note: Whereas Deep Ellum parking meters were also updated to reflect a second parking change last week -- no more paying for parking between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekends -- Curington says no other neighborhoods will see its parking payment rules changes as a result of the payment upgrades coming to their meters.

"Deep Ellum has always been, at least in recent years, a pilot area for the city," Curington says. "We just when and made [the parking hours] uniform throughout the week [for simplicity]. We don't see it as a loss. You want to encourage people to be there. We'll make our money back in other areas. We see that as a plus."