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No quarters? No problem: Bellingham parking meters can be paid by phone

A screen grab of how the PayByPhone app appears when you search for it in the Apple App Store. You can now use the app to pay for parking in Bellingham.
A screen grab of how the PayByPhone app appears when you search for it in the Apple App Store. You can now use the app to pay for parking in Bellingham. The Bellingham Herald

The days of finding an open parking space only to realize you can’t pay the meter because you don’t have change are over – you can now pay with your phone to park downtown.

Bellingham recently joined Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., in using a program that allows payment through a smartphone app called PayByPhone, or by calling a number posted on the side of the meter.

The app uses your credit or debit card information for payments, and then alerts the city’s parking enforcement officers that you’ve paid.

To use the program, you create an account with your card information and license plate. To pay, you enter a location code that is posted on the meter or pay station, and the app lets you know parking time limits and cost, and sends you an alert when your time is almost up.

Need to add some time? You can pay from where you are without running out to the meter. However, keep in mind that time limits will stay the same, so if you’re in a two-hour spot and already paid for two hours, you won’t be able to add time.

Downloading the app is free, and there is a 25-cent fee every time you pay or add time to your space, which is how the company makes money and pays for card-processing fees, said Clark Williams, the city’s traffic superintendent.

The city didn’t have to foot the bill for anything for the PayByPhone system, Williams said, including signs that will be posted throughout the area.

Even before the city announced the program Wednesday, people had already started using the program to the tune of about 150 transactions per day, Williams said.

“We’ve had nothing but positive feedback so far,” he said.

The company does have a minimum charge it needs to recuperate each month, but even without advertising the city has already hit that minimum this month, Williams said.

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil

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