Parking in downtown Bellingham? There’s an app for that
Drivers who park their cars in downtown Bellingham are getting far fewer tickets, mostly because more people are using a mobile app that reminds them when their meter is about to expire.
“We’ve seen very steady and rapid growth” since the PaybyPhone app debuted in December 2016, said Eric Johnston, assistant director of Public Works Department’s Operations Division.
He said the app showed 1,700 monthly transactions that first month, and had soared to 20,000 monthly transactions in February 2019.
“We’re seeing an increase in compliance and a substantial drop in tickets,” Johnston said.
Bellingham issued an average of 19,846 meter violations per year from 2014 through 2016, Johnston said.
Johnston said that by 2017, annual meter violations fell to 12,165 and plummeted to 7,969 in 2018.
While parking fines are down, more people are paying to park, Johnston said.
Total parking revenue was $2.4 million in 2018, with about $1.7 million coming from parking fees, and the rest came from fines, rents, leases and investment interest, he said.
Parking revenue was $2.5 million in 2016, with about $1.5 million coming from parking fees, he said.
Ease of using the app — even with a 25-cent PayByPhone user fee— makes it popular, because fewer people carry cash and the app allows users to add meter time without returning to their cars, Johnston said.
As a result, coin-operated meters are being replaced over time with pay stations that accept cash, coins, debit/credit cards and the app, he said.
More people paying for parking is good news for the city — but not in the way that people might think, Johnston said.
“We’re not trying to create revenue, we’re trying to promote turnover and manage parking better,” Clark Williams, superintendent of transportation and public facilities, told The Bellingham Herald in December 2018.
Money from parking fees is used to maintain parking facilities and about $200,000 is used to support Downtown Bellingham Partnership activities and events, and for downtown beautification projects such as landscaping and litter removal, Johnston said.