Passport parking app soon to launch in Huntsville to help you monitor your meter

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - A new tool will soon roll out in the Rocket City, aimed at making it easier and more convenient for you to pay for parking in metered spaces.

The Passport app, available on smartphones, is a tool you can use to pay for parking and later add more time to your meter. By linking credit card information and your vehicle tag number to the app, you can pay without using coins and without being physically present at the meter.

During a meeting Thursday, the Huntsville City Council approved its use in the city. You may recognize the Passport app from time you have spent visiting other cities.

Parking enforcement will have handheld equipment to view when you have paid through the app, said Tommy Brown, Huntsville's Parking and Public Transportation Director.

"This will allow people to pay for parking at any city of Huntsville parking meter, using the app," said Brown. "You'll get a notification your time is about to run out. You can extend your time on the app. You don't have to go back out to the meter, so it's going to be much more convenient."

He added that he believes this will also cut down on the number of citations people earn throughout downtown Huntsville, which is currently a total of around 400-500 per month.

This will not require the meters to be changed much, but they will each be numbered. Brown said all you'll have to do once it goes live is input your parking space number to the app, and choose how much time you'd like to pay for.

This will take a few weeks to set up.

Now the city council has approved the city's use of Passport, Brown will need to make an agreement with the company for the service next week. He said it will take 2-3 weeks after that for the system to be up and running.

"The meters themselves will not change," he said. You can still use coins to pay for parking if you would like.

Brown said there has been high demand for meters that take credit cards, and this can help solve that problem.

"Part of our issues in the downtown area is our meters don't accept credit cards and don't accept cash. To put in all new meters that accept credit cards and cash is very, very expensive. We'd have to replace all of our hardware," Brown detailed. "The younger that you are, the less likely you are to carry cash. So, credit card payment is what we've really had a request for and this will enable us to have an app that will accept the credit cards. We are excited about it."

The downtown area has 550 parking meters. The plan is to update those meters to higher-tech versions within the next few years.

There are already efforts to install Pay by Foot walk-up parking kiosks on Church Street at Big Spring Park, said Brown. Each kiosk will act as a parking meter for 10 spaces. This technology will take a while to bring to the rest of the city.

Brown hopes these steps encourage more people to come visit the Rocket City.

"Our hope is it will encourage more people to come downtown by making parking easier," he said.