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Chicago to expand its parking-by-app program

Updated: June 8, 2014 6:21AM

About 1,600 West Loop drivers used a free parking app during three weeks of a pilot program giving motorists the option to pay for public parking spots by phone.

Chicago Parking Meters on Tuesday said the ParkChicago app will begin to roll out in areas surrounding the pilot area — which is bordered by Madison to Monroe and Halsted to Racine — and expand to all of the city’s 36,000 meters by the end of summer.

ParkChicago, along with app vendor Passport Parking, launched the program on April 15 at 279 metered spots in the West Loop.

A ParkChicago spokeswoman also said about 3,500 people downloaded the app.

To take advantage of the pay-by-phone system, customers must first set up an account via and link it to a major credit card or debit card.

After finding a parking spot, drivers then input a zone number, which is listed on street signs and — the first time they use the app — their credit card information and a license plate. The app will save that information for future purchases. One of the perks: When you have 10 minutes left, it will send an alert to let you know either to jet back to your car — or pay more.

Drivers are charged a 35 cent so-called “convenience fee” for using the app for parking under two hours.

Chicago Parking Meters leased the city’s 36,000 parking meters as part of a 75-year deal that began in 2008.

A portion of the convenience fee will go to the operators of the app and to pay for credit card transaction fees, according to Chicago Parking Meters spokesman Scott Burnham. He said Chicago Parking Meters gets what is left over to cover expenses, including its call center, customer service initiatives, labor and 40,000 street signs that will ultimately go out to alert drivers of the new app. But the amount the company gets is capped, with the city receiving anything above that.

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