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Buffalo's new mobile parking app goes live

No pocket change or loose coins handy? No problem.

No credit card available? Don’t worry.

Don’t feel like taking a walk to the Pay and Display machine? Don’t sweat it.

Now all that’s needed to pay for parking in the City of Buffalo is a mobile device.

Buffalo Roam, a citywide mobile parking application, was launched Tuesday as another option to pay for parking at all of the city’s 3,900 on-street paid parking spots.

The system is the latest in a series of advances to improve the ease and efficiency of parking in Buffalo. It allows motorists to forego coin and credit card payments at the meters and instead pay on the go with their smartphones. The technology will also warn motorists when their time is about to expire and gives parkers the flexibility to extend their parking sessions by up to one hour without going back to the meter.

People still will be able to put money in a freestanding meter or use the Pay and Display machine if they choose, but with the Buffalo Roam app, there is no need to feed the meter or purchase those tiny tickets to place on the windshield showing how much time was bought, officials said. Just follow the prompts from the app.

City officials worked with a company called Passport to develop Buffalo Roam, a customized parking app specific to the Buffalo community. Passport also has developed parking apps for Boston, Chicago, Miami and the United Kingdom, to name a few, said Mayor Byron W. Brown in announcing the new initiative Tuesday on Main Street downtown with some Common Council members on hand for the demonstration.

The Council had to approve the resolution that allows paying for the additional hour of meter time via mobile devices.

If users do not want to download the app, they can follow the same process through the website. But it’s probably better to download the app because there will be information and notifications on it that Buffalo will help build, said Kevin J. Helfer, the city’s parking commissioner.

The new Buffalo Roam app will allow parkers to:

  • Pay for parking using a debit/credit card
  • Receive alerts when a parking session is about to expire
  • Extend a parking session remotely
  • View their parking history
  • Receive email receipts
  • Get traffic and parking updates and alerts

In the future, city officials will be able to build onto the app to allow certain functions such as being able to pay parking tickets. Merchants would be able to use it as well to pick up the cost of parking for their customers.

The app is free to download, but the new convenience will come with a 10-cent credit card surcharge each time a person parks that will be paid to Passport, the company that provides the smartphone meter app.

The first $1 of parking is free for the first 1,000 Buffalo Roam users, officials said.

Stickers with directions on how to use the app are affixed to freestanding meters, while signs with directions have been attached to the pay and display machines.

Parking enforcement officers still will patrol the streets to see if cars are paid up. But in addition to checking the meter for an "expired" reading or looking through the windshield for a ticket, meter readers will use a device to punch in the license plate number and find out if the motorist is paid up for parking.

The city, which took in about $1.8 million in 2015 from parking meters and machines before expenses, could lose revenue from parking tickets with the new pay-by-cell option. But there is an upside. While the city loses in ticket revenue, it will get more revenue on the parking meter side by having this technology, Helfer has said.

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