After delays due to technical issues, Des Moines city officials say they are working to complete the installation of a new downtown parking system.
In January, the city began phasing out its clunky parking meters to make way for a new $3.5 million system that allows motorists to park at any open location via an app or pay station on sidewalk. When complete, the three-phase plan — encompassing Downtown and East Village across the Des Moines River — will modernize payment methods for users of more than 3,400 parking spaces.
City officials completed Phase 1 – which included portions of 15th Street to the river, along Grand Avenue, Locust and Walnut streets – earlier this year, activating 240 of the 400 pay stations in the city. total and 2,011 of the 3,404 space markers, urban traffic engineer John Davis told members of the Des Moines City Council during a presentation at the quarterly meeting on Tuesday.
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But, Davis said, several technical and logistical roadblocks hampered the city’s ability to complete Phases 2 and 3, which encompass the East Village and the western edge of downtown, respectively. Although these issues are now resolved, it set the town back for several months.
Checkout issues delay roll-out of parking system
After the Phase 1 rollout, Davis pointed to configuration issues, as well as hardware and software issues with the parking kiosks.
Pay stations, which will be found in nearly every downtown block, accept neighborhoods and all major forms of debit and credit cards. You also have the choice between three languages: English, Spanish and French.
Initially, city officials assumed that the existing alphanumeric space numbers on the coin meter headers could be used for the new pay stations and the pay-per-cell application, ParkDSM. Instead, the city had to change space numbers to six-digit numbers to accommodate app settings, which required more setup time, Davis said.
Users also reported numerous issues with the payment kiosk, including faulty screens and credit card terminals, and machines not processing credit card payments, leaving parking lot users to pay in cash.
Space signage was also delayed due to supply chain issues in 2021, he said.
Davis said the city delayed payment to the pay station company, Flowbird, due to multiple issues during initial activation. But at this point, Davis said Flowbird has fixed most of the issues.
“What we see today is a far cry from what we saw a month or two months ago,” he said.
After the issues were resolved, Davis told city council members that the city was moving forward with the facilities, but in a different order than originally planned. Over the next month, officials will complete Phase 3 by installing kiosks and parking signs throughout the rest of downtown on the west side of the river.
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Phase 2, in the East Village, will be completed after the first of the year to avoid problems during the holiday season, the busiest shopping time of the year in the neighborhood.
Council member Indira Sheumaker, who represents Ward 1, asked Davis if the city would enforce the parking meters between the removal of the old parking heads and the installation of the new pay stations. She also asked if the city would enforce parking tickets if the app or a pay station isn’t working.
Davis said the app depends on the issue. Although expired parking meters are measured on a case-by-case basis, people who park downtown can still be ticketed for other things, like taking up two spaces, he said.
People who believe they were wrongfully ticketed are encouraged to appeal their ticket to the city, Davis added. Parking patrons are also encouraged to report app and pay station issues to the city by calling the phone number listed on the kiosk.
Des Moines parking app hits 10,000 users in first month
Davis told council members that city data shows people prefer the ParkDSM app over pay stations.
Over 10,000 people signed up for the app in the first month. And between July 31 and October 9, parking transactions on the app, owned by ParkMobile, accounted for 53% of 253,496 parking transactions. ParkDSM has the highest usage rate in its first year of any city served by ParkMobile, Davis said.
ParkDSM, available in the App Store for all Android and Apple mobile devices, is also compatible with the national parking application ParkMobile, which is already used in other cities such as Ames, Minneapolis, Omaha and Milwaukee. Apple Pay will also be available on the app from 2023.
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Council member Josh Mandelbaum said despite the app’s success, the city should aim to make it easier to use the app and make people feel comfortable parking at the center -town.
“I think sometimes you hear stories about people being confused about parking and they’re like, ‘I don’t want to come downtown with this’ and once you get them into the system…we don’t let’s just reduce that barrier,” Mandelbaum says. “Some people might not have a smartphone or might not want to use their phone for this purpose, but if we have data that can help us improve the service, let’s use it.”