Pay-By-Phone Parking -- And Real-Time Space Availability -- Being Tested in the Bronx

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An 18-block stretch in the Bronx will be the first in New York City to test pay-by-phone parking.

The pilot program will allow people to use phone, internet or smartphone app to pay for 264 metered parking spaces along or adjacent to Arthur Avenue  -- as well as spots in the city's Belmont Municipal Parking Field. To participate, motorists must sign up in advance on the Pay-By-Phone website. Each Muni-Meter in the pilot program has a QR code and a seven-digit number; the motorist must use either to confirm payment.

Users will receive a text or email when their meter is about to expire, and they will have the option of extending their time without having to return to their cars. According to the mayor's press release, traffic enforcement agents will use new hand-held scanners to cross-check the PayByPhone's data to ensure compliance.

"New York City parking has come a long way since we had to put a roll of quarters in our pocket," said city transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, making the announcement Tuesday in the Bronx with Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

A side view of the Muni-Meter in the Bronx. Note QR code and 7-digit ID. (Photo by Christine Streich)

Related: Good Bye, Parking Meter; Hello, Muni-Meter

The pay-by-phone pilot will be tested for three months; it could then expand citywide.

Potentially more interesting than the ability to feed the meter remotely is the second half of Tuesday's announcement: a real-time parking availability map, seeded by information transmitted from roadbed sensors.

A sensor embedded in the roadway detects whether a parking space is free or not. (Photo by Christine Streich)

"Green indicates the greatest likelihood of a spot; yellow, the chances aren't so good, and red, well, you get the idea--" said Sadik-Khan. "Forget about it, as Marty [Markowitz] would say," interjected Bloomberg, referring to Brooklyn's Borough President.

Sadik-Khan added the map would cut down on the pollution created by cruising around and looking for a spot. "Knowing where to go, and to concentrate your search on where it's going to have the biggest value and the biggest payoff, is half the battle," she said.

In addition to being available online, the map is also available as a smartphone app. Bloomberg batted away suggestions that the app could encourage distracted driving.  Bloomberg reasoned passengers could check the map -- or drivers could check it before they leave "or pull over. I mean, a lot of things are meant for you, you can't do it while you're --" here the mayor paused -- "in the shower, for example."

This cracked up the crowd. "I'm just trying to think of some other place you shouldn't," Bloomberg said, moving along to the next question.

Real-time parking conditions in the Belmont section of the Bronx (click for interactive map)

Other cities around the world -- San Francisco, London, Vancouver, Miami -- use similar technology. Monica Hernandez, a spokesperson for the District Department of Transportation, said all 17,500 meters in Washington D.C. can be paid for via phone, and that the program had been in place for almost two years. "It's serving its purpose," she said. "It provides one more option for people looking to park."

With reporting from Christine Streich/WNYC.