Using a pay parking spot on a street is traditionally a bit of a pain. You need to have coins to put in the meter, or for newer systems you need to locate the central meter machine location on the block, walk there from your car, pay for a paper receipt, then walk back to your car and put the receipt on your dashboard. And of course, if your time expires then you risk having to pay a fine. But fortunately, a number of cities now have parking that works with an iPhone app so that you can pay for parking directly from your iPhone. Not only does this make it easier to pay for parking in the first place, it also means that if you go longer than you had expected in a meeting (or restaurant, etc.), you can press a few buttons in the app — from right there in your meeting, or in the restaurant — to extend your time on the meter without having to actually go back to your car. It makes parking much more convenient.
I live in New Orleans, and my city used to have a system run by PayByPhone, which currently works in about 40 U.S. cities and in some others around the world. For just over a year, we've been using a system run by Parkmobile, which works in hundreds of cities. (Here is a map showing where Parkmobile works.)
The Parkmobile app is free, but to use the app you first need to create an account and provide a payment method, such as a credit card or a PayPal account, and also provide the license plate number for your car. Next, when you go to park, look for the number of the parking zone where you are parking. You can find this number either on a sign, or on the front or side of the parking meter machine. You will sometimes see a QR code next to the number, and the app also lets you scan that to save you the trouble of entering a few numbers.
You don't have to actually do anything at the parking meter machine — you just need that number. If you cannot find the number on the street, the Parkmobile app even lets you find the number associated with each block. For example, here are the streets around the Louisiana Supreme Court / Fourth Circuit building, located in the French Quarter in New Orleans. Tap on any zone to see the associated number.
Once you have the number, tap the Parking tab at the bottom left of the app and enter the number.
If you park in an area frequently, you can designate a zone as a favorite, and even assign your own name to the entry. That way, in the future, you don't even have to look for the number. In this next example, I designated a zone as the place where the taco truck parks near Lee Circle in New Orleans:
Next, decide how long you want to park. The app even lets you select the maximum park time for that spot. Next, the app asks you to confirm how much it will cost to park. If that looks good to you, press the button to start parking.
There is a transaction fee for using the app which varies from city to city. In New Orleans, it is $0.35 per transaction, although if you pay Parkmobile $1 a month for a preferred membership, the transaction fee drops to $0.30 per transaction.
Once you have paid for a parking spot, you can look at the app at any time to see how much time you have remaining on the meter.
The app sends you a notification (if you have notifications for the app turned on) and an email to let you know when your parking session is about to end. For Apple Watch owners, it is handy to get the notification right there on your watch.
Extending the meter is simple; just press the Extend Session button in the app. And as I mentioned above, this is one of the best parts of the app. You never need to worry about being far from your car when it is time to feed the meter. As long as you are someplace with an Internet connection, you can extend your session quickly and easily. (Note that in some areas, there are limits on much you can extend your parking.)
Because the app knows where you paid to park, the app can help you find your car if you forget where you parked. Just tap the Find My Car button at the bottom of the app.
Note that when you use this app, you don't have to put any receipt on your dashboard. The parking attendant knows that you have paid based on the license plate number that you have entered in the app; the parking attendant equipment won't issue a ticket during the time period that you have paid to park. You can add multiple license plates to the app so that you can use the app with other vehicles.
If you are in a city that works with Parkmobile or a similar system, you should definitely take the time now to download the app so that you have it when you need it. For only a small transaction fee, it is faster and easier to start the meter running, plus you can see exactly how much time you have left on the meter and add more if necessary. Perhaps most importantly, this app can help you avoid a parking ticket, which I guarantee you will be much, much more expensive than the transaction fee.