Jeff Humphrey

Keep the Change, Pay by Phone

Jeff Humphrey, Media Content Coordinator, 509.625.6308

Friday, March 2, 2018 at 11:45 a.m.

Deep inside a city building there’s a place where it rains money in a noisy storm of falling coins.

Thousands of dollars in quarters, dimes and nickels have to be collected from parking meters almost daily.

“One of the main issues for us is if they are not collected quickly enough, these cups will actually fill up with coins and it will start to stuff up the meter through the coin chute and you won’t be able to get any additional change through,” explained enforcement officer Justin Harding of City of Spokane Parking Services.

While paying for parking in cash is convenient for drivers, using a phone has quickly become another customer-friendly alternative. Even still, all those coins create some heavy metal challenges for Harding and his foreman John Ashwood.

Almost every day of the work week, the pair head to the counting room where they feed money collected from parking meters into a machine that sorts out the change based on its denomination. For example, quarters trickle into a plastic bag until it weighs 25 pounds and is almost too heavy to lift.

On this particular day, shelves inside a city vault will be loaded down with a quarter ton of coins until an armored car service can haul them away.

That’s one reason officials are excited more people are paying for parking with their cell phones.

“Honestly, the number one answer I could give you is that it allows you to park downtown a little more conveniently, not having to carry around a pocketful of change to fill up the meter,” said Harding when asked about the parking app’s attributes.

Here’s how the Passport Parking app works.

From the comfort and safety of your front seat, type in the number of the zone you’d like to use, your car’s license plate and your credit card numbers. Then choose how long you’d like to stay. 

Even though the meter will still say it’s expired, parking enforcement officers won’t write you a ticket because when they run your plate, they’ll see you still have plenty of time left on your app.

“You can set it up to where it notifies you when your session is about to expire,” Harding said. “It will give you an opportunity to get back to the meter to either move your vehicle or to add the additional 15-minute extension to your time.”

Everybody likes free parking, and with the Passport app you can purchase a block of parking time to use downtown whenever you need it.

Buy $20 and stash it in your phone app wallet and the City will give you $22 worth of time.

“It’s kind of a bonus parking session, if you will,” Harding explained. “It’s just more convenient for you to use the wallet so you’re not having to make the payment every single time. You can just type in your zone and you’re good to go.”

The app will even e-mail you receipts for your expense account.

Paying for parking by phone means you’ll no longer have to lug around handfuls of coins. But, if you’re a cash and carry kind of person, the City is still happy to accept your change.

Officials say every dime collected from meters or the pay by phone app is reinvested in improving our parking environment.

For more information on using the Passport Parking app you can find details on parking meters, the City of Spokane’s website or, by calling 311.

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