It’s finally that time of year for millions of surf and sand aficionados. For this leisure-loving throng, there are few things better than a day spent in the sun — especially on, in or near the water. Warm sand, waves breaking and ebbing, salt spray — it’s a recipe for relaxation. That is, until the parking meter expires.
Unscientifically weighted, parking can be a bigger drain on summertime fun than a sudden downpour, a quickly rising tide or an aggressive seagull. (For what it’s worth, we’ll give a sunburn or jellyfish sting the over.) But, could mPOS be the solution for this car-related relaxation undertow?
Honk, a parking mobile payments app inspired by metered beach parking aggravation, is trying to rejigger metered parking with a mobile-powered payment option for both privately owned and municipal parking lots. The company’s mobile pay app for iOS and Android devices enables users to search and pay for parking across North America and also sends customers notifications before parking reservations expire to keep them from being ticketed or towed.
In a recent interview, Mia Brown, director of operations for the Toronto-based mobile parking solution app, told PYMNTS that while the notification feature has become popular with all users, it was initially designed with beachgoers and boaters in mind.
“You never know how long you’re going to stay when you’re on the beach or out on a boat, and ticketing can really ruin a good day,” Brown said. “No one wants to run back to a machine and search for change while they’re enjoying a day on the water, and, in some cases, it may not even be possible. We knew we needed to give people an ability to know their meter was going to expire [so they could] fuel it up again.”
From the Beach to a Parking Lot Near You
To provide better parking payment solutions — not just at beaches, but anywhere drivers pay to park — Brown said Honk often partners with municipalities, colleges and universities or private owners of large public lots.
As part of the partnership, Honk agrees to process parking payments and provide a consumer-facing mobile pay app. After finding a lot and a spot, which can be accomplished via the app’s geolocation services, drivers enter their license plate number and online payment information, both of which can be saved for future use. Honk tracks the “reservation” as time passes and sends out reminders via an in-app push notification or text message to alert users 15 minutes before their parking payment expires.
The inspiration for the notification system came when Honk first started partnering with beachside municipalities to offer the service for beachgoers and boaters. It wanted to give customers who might be far from their cars a way to know the meter was expiring and allow them to remotely add time to the reservation.
While the notion of notifications may have been born from the beach, Brown said that it has grown to become a “central tenant” of the company’s offering.
“It’s designed to be fairly seamless for any kind of parking situation,” she explained. “You can add time anywhere you are, whether you’re stuck in a meeting for work, or your hair appointment runs long, or you just don’t want to get off the beach.”
Making Enforcement Mobile
Honk, as it turns out, isn’t only designed for consumers. The company offers a mobile app for Android devices — it also works on any mobile device with a web browser — and integrates with many existing parking enforcement solutions used by municipalities.
The mobile parking solution enables enforcement officers to view the cars authorized to park in a particular lot and allows them to search by individual plate numbers. It also displays information for cars with recently expired parking reservations. All of this is intended to make enforcement easier and less manual.
Additionally, the app can add some compassion to authority. “Generous municipalities,” as Brown describes them, can opt to add a grace period to cars that have crept into the expiration zone.
The only part of the parking process the app can’t handle is ticketing. Brown said that parkers must deal with their own municipality or lot owner if they do have to dispute or pay a citation — the app does not process these payments.
It does, however, process parking payments with most major credit cards and Visa or Mastercard debit cards. And, Brown said, the company recently began to accept new mobile payment types, like mobile wallets, to better accommodate the future of parking.
Parking’s Next Spot
Parking’s future isn’t just mobile wallets and other innovative online payments, according to Brown — it’s also a transformation of what most people think of as an open parking space.
In an effort to embrace the modern sharing economy, perhaps pioneered by platforms that offer on-demand lodging or rides, Honk created what Brown described as “Airbnb for parking.” For those with access to a private parking spot (like people paying rent to park their cars) in an in-demand area, such as downtown in a major city or near transportation hubs, the app can turn their spaces into side gigs. Parking spaces can be rented out through Honk when the primary car isn’t in its spot.
And those who have a spot in an apartment or condo complex’s parking lot can sign up on the Honk website to rent their spot whenever it is vacant, such as when the owner drives to work each day. Spaces are reserved by interested parkers on an on-demand or monthly basis. Brown said this service has become a central selling point for Honk.
“The nice thing about it is that it’s so flexible,” she said. “You may have a space and even own a car, but it’s with you when you work from nine to five every day. If there’s someone who works near where you live and is looking to save money but has to drive their car to work, you can rent out that spot while you’re gone.”
As parking and driving transform with the increasing popularity of ridesharing services — and the possible arrival of connected, or even automated, automobiles — Brown said Honk will look to keep pace. The goal, she said, is to keep the idea that started Honk, making parking simpler and easier, at the center of the company’s strategy going forward.
Could it be that finding a parking spot will someday be as simple as a day on the beach? Keep checking those tide charts (on your phone, of course). Tides are predictable, while undertow is inherently uncertain.
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