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Chicago’s pay-by-smartphone parking app goes live tomorrow

Say goodbye to paying with coins: Chicago begins rolling out a new app to pay for parking meters by smartphone
Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Drivers in the loop will soon be able to pay for street parking or extend time on the meter remotely with a new smartphone app.

ParkChicago, an app on iPhone and Android devices, will launch on Tuesday and give users the convenience of paying for parking on a smartphone from a credit or debit card. The program is launching as a pilot program in 279 parking spots on streets in the West Loop, with an eventual rollout to nearly 36,000 parking spots throughout the city in the next few months.

Users of the app are required to create prepaid accounts, drawing $20 from a credit or debit card on first use. The balance within prepaid accounts can be used to pay for parking spots or extend time on the meter without having to go directly to meters or pay boxes. The accounts also automatically reload in $20 increments when a user’s balance dips below $10. Users who park for less than two hours will be charged a 35 cent convenience fee, which will go towards the cost of developing the app.

The program is part of an anticipated rollout by Chicago Parking Meters LLC, which bought the rights in 2008 to administer the city’s parking spaces and collect revenue until 2083 in exchange for $1.15 billion. The company, as part of a renegotiation last year, promised a smartphone app as part of the lease agreement. The contract also stipulates that the city will receive any parking revenue over $2 million a year.

The app will also provide flexibility to users by allowing customers with excess time purchased to move from one spot to another and use the remaining paid time. Other features include notifications when time is about to run out, the ability to pay parking tickets and manage multiple vehicles at the same time.

Tomorrow’s rollout will be located in the West Loop between Madison Street and Monroe Street and Halstead Street to Racine Avenue. The program plans to begin expansion to new spots in two to three weeks.