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Parking App Glitches and New 20-Cent Fee Miff Motorists

The updated ParkNYC mobile app was supposed to make paying for street parking easier — but users report plenty of problems since a reboot last week.

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The ParkNYC app got an update this week, part of an effort by the transportation department to upgrade 14,500 parking meters citywide.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

When the app that lets city drivers pay for parking via mobile devices went offline for a few days of upgrades last week, Lou Bond tried twice to feed the meter instead — but ended up with a pair of parking tickets.

“The meter wasn’t working, the app was suspended — bingo, it’s a ticket and that’s Thursday night,” Bond said. “Then Monday night, I couldn’t get my credit card to input on the new app and the meter wasn’t working — boom, a second ticket.

“I was like, this is crazy,” added Bond, who said he plans to contest the $65 tickets with a defense that the meters he tried to pay at in Lower Manhattan and on the Upper West Side were out of order.

The 55-year-old electrician, who drives a Ford Transit van in from Long Island for work, was among the motorists hassled by the launch of an updated ParkNYC mobile app, which the city Department of Transportation released Monday, touting features designed to make paying for parking easier.

ParkNYC went offline at 11:59 p.m. last Thursday as the DOT and app developer Flowbird began the shift to a new system. The ParkNYC app was first implemented in 2017. 

When it came back online early Monday morning, several existing users of the app told THE CITY they were flustered by having to create new accounts. They experienced long delays in receiving verification codes and paid a new 20-cent per-transaction fee.

“In the end, I think that’s what this was all about — a new fee, however discreet,” said Fabio Uchida, a ParkNYC user from Astoria.

According to DOT, more than 40% of all parking meter payments are made through mobile devices. But some users complained that the latest update turned into a bumpy ride.

“I probably reset my password about 20 times and ended up setting up a whole new account,” said Sheila Kaplan, 69, of Brooklyn. “I have a degree in technology, so I wasn’t confused — I was just annoyed that it took a lot of my time.”

ParkNYC has a 1.5 rating out of 5 among more than 5,400 reviews on the App Store, where users have posted their gripes about difficulties with accessing money from a previous version of the app and being locked out of their accounts.

New Meters Made

The app is among the initial steps in DOT’s efforts to upgrade and retrofit 14,500 parking meters across the city. The changes will eliminate the need for receipts as proof of payment and allow anyone who is parking to enter their license plate at the meter without having to return to the vehicle with a receipt.

“I like the parking app because it’s convenient,” said Anthony Natale, 62, of Washington Heights. “But the mess-up of a rollout and adding new fees that were not there previously is not good.”

The transportation department said the new 20-cent per-transaction fee is half the cost placed on drivers in some other cities who use mobile apps to pay for parking and that motorists can avoid the fee by preloading their e-wallet or by paying at the meter.

Some motorists said they have struggled to do that.

“No matter what I did, the information never filled,” said app user Jose Martinez, 47, of Jamaica (no relation to this reporter). “So I was never able to refill my balance or enter a payment method.”

Vin Barone, a DOT spokesperson, said complaints about ParkNYC have been limited to “a very small share” of the nearly 200,000 downloads since the app relaunched.

“DOT is proud to launch a revamped ParkNYC app that makes parking more convenient and less time-consuming,” Barone said in a statement to THE CITY. “Our app provider is working to address any complaints, which represent a very small share of the nearly 200,000 downloads and more than 83,000 transactions we’ve seen since the successful relaunch.”

Bond, the Long Island electrician, said he needs his vehicle for work, but noted that others who have problems with parking could eventually ditch their wheels once motorists entering Manhattan south of 60th Street begin being tolled as part of a plan to cut congestion and raise billions for transit improvements.

“In a way, I can’t wait for congestion pricing,” he said. “Maybe people will get back on the train or leave their cars.”

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