AUBURN | Auburn may soon be rocketed into the 21st century with the option to pay for downtown parking with a smartphone.
The Auburn City Council will vote tonight on authorizing Mayor Michael Quill to enter into a 24-month contract with Pango USA, LLC, a company that provides a service allowing people to pay for meter and kiosk parking using an application on their phones.
Users can sign up for a Pango account and then be able to hit "start" on their Pango phone app or call a toll free number to start a parking session. They can stop the parking session when needed and the cost is billed to their credit cards, according to Pango's website.
Parking enforcement officers, when patrolling, will be able to scan the license plates of cars parked at expired meters to determine whether they are Pango customers. All active parking sessions are logged in a database that is accessible to officers.
Pango entered the U.S. market only recently, after being implemented in many European cities.
If the city council authorizes the agreement with Pango, the new system will likely be up and running in about three weeks, said Auburn City Manager Douglas Selby.
The current kiosks and meters will still be available to those who aren't comfortable with Pango.
"We're not taking out any meters or kiosks," Selby said. "This will be an additional way you can pay for parking. ... It's more convenient for some people."
Selby said the cost to park will remain the same, and no parking enforcement positions will be cut due to the addition of the Pango system.
The cost to set up Pango will be nominal, Selby said. Signage will need to be put up to give users instructions to use the service, and Selby estimated that cost could be around $5,000.
"It doesn't require any new equipment," he said. "It's a little bit like the E-ZPass system on the Thruway."
In 2007, parking kiosks were added to the city's parking meters, and the city was plagued by complaints from people who had to climb over snow drifts to put money in the kiosks and then bring the parking pass back to their cars.
"You can do this from your car," he said. "You don't have to get out, go to the kiosk, get a paper ticket and put it on your dash."
Selby said Pango will receive 5 percent of every parking transaction and the city will receive 95 percent. The fact that people will pay for all the time they use in a parking space is supposed to increase revenues for the city, Selby said.
Selby said he spoke to officials in Latrobe, Pa., to see how they were doing with their recent Pango implementation. He said Pango wants to help Auburn become a "smart city," too.
"They want to use Auburn as their starting point to expand into central New York," he said.
Alex Graziani, city manager of Latrobe, said his city implemented Pango in June 2012.
"We're just delighted," he said. "It offered choice for the customers."
Graziani believes smartphones will continue to become the norm in the future.
"We've seen an uptick (in Pango use) after Christmas," he said. "It's going in the right direction."
He said Pango also collects parking data that allows his city to see trends in shopping, tourism and other areas that parking patterns can show.
But above all, Graziani said pay-by-phone parking systems are the way of the future.
"It's what the public will come to expect — that convenience," he said.