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Chapel Hill will institute a pay-by-phone system for parking fees

UNC students use their cell phones for just about everything — and now they can add paying for Chapel Hill parking to the list.

Chapel Hill is establishing a pay-by-phone system that would allow people to pay for downtown parking with their cell phones instead of using meters.

The town is accepting proposals from interested firms to produce the program, and they hope to implement the system by late spring or early summer.

The project would replace the town’s 210 multi-space meters, allowing residents to use their phones to pay at town-operated facilities within two square miles of downtown Chapel Hill.

The program would also apply to many of the town’s approximately 900 parking spaces in parking decks, lots and on-street parking.

Brenda Jones, parking superintendent of Chapel Hill, said the program aims to improve service to the community.

“Pay-by-phone offers a more convenient payment method, as you can pay from the safety of your car, receive texts when your time is up, extend your parking session remotely to avoid tickets, and view and print receipts online,” Jones said.

This system is proposed to operate between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on scheduled special events. It will enable residents to use any cell services to pay.

Users would not need smart phones to access the system. One-time users can call in and tell a computerized system their parking space number, payment information and duration of parking, and regular users can create accounts to expedite the process.

Jones said it’s hard to anticipate how much the program will cost, but parking fees will cover the bulk of its funding.

“Different companies have different ways of administering their programs, so the cost would depend on which vendor we select,” she said.

Some companies would charge the town directly, while others would receive only parking fees, Jones said.

Alisher Holmuhamedov, a resident of Durham, said whether or not he would use the pay-by-phone program depends on how user-friendly the system is.

“I am surprised the town is considering this as it seems like a tough thing to set up and make easy to use,” Holmuhamedov said. “If they can make it easy to use, more power to them.”

Brooklyn Stephens, a senior at UNC, said she would find the pay-by-phone system beneficial.

“It depends on the security of the system and the process to actually pay, but I think it’s a great idea,” she said.

Proposals are due March 9 and will be scored and ranked by a committee. The committee will evaluate the proposals and choose finalists, who will present proposals and be rescored before a final contract is awarded in mid-April.

Jones said she’s unsure of how many bids they have received, but knows of at least five.

Similar pay-by-phone systems currently exist in other parts of North Carolina including Winston-Salem, Asheville, Greensboro and Charlotte.

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