Parking in western Vancouver is going electronic and feline.
Starting this month, drivers in the downtown and uptown neighborhoods will be able to pay for street parking with a smartphone app linked to a debit or credit card.
Bonus feature — it meows.
Passport’s Parking Kitty app was originally developed for Portland, where it launched in early 2017. Drivers can monitor their parking sessions remotely, receive a meow alert when their meter is low, and add extra time with a few taps of the screen.
Vancouver is planning a soft January rollout. Once fully implemented, all on-street hourly parking spaces will offer the option of being paid for via cellphone. Parking Kitty replaces the city’s Parkmobile app, which had previously been available on a handful of blocks downtown.
“We were aware of Parking Kitty’s success in Portland, and we wanted to bring that same convenience to parkers in Vancouver,” Steve Kaspan, Vancouver’s parking manager, said in a press release. “The ability to pay, receive reminders and add additional parking time, all with your phone, are conveniences we think will be quite useful to our residents and visitors.”
Parking Kitty is still in operation in Portland. In April 2018, PDX Monthly reported that the app had managed 20 percent of Portland’s meter transactions in the year since its launch, or about 2.77 million total parking sessions.
(Why the cat motif? Memorable branding. As Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesman Dylan Rivera told The Oregonian in 2017: “Portlanders are really into cats.”)
The app charges a 10 cent fee per parking session. To try it, look for hot-pink Parking Kitty signs or stickers on the closest parking meter or pay station. According to Kaspan, the city spent Wednesday blanketing Uptown Village along Main Street and the section of 25th Street near Walgreens.
“We plan to see how things go in Uptown, get feedback, and fix any issues on a small scale before moving downtown. If all goes well and weather permits, we could have it citywide by mid-February,” he wrote in an email to The Columbian, adding that the meters and pay stations need to be dry in order to attach the stickers.
Parking Kitty doesn’t allow drivers to circumvent time limits — parking sessions can be extended remotely only up until the time limit on that particular block. Additionally, Vancouver’s coin carriers will still be able to pay to park the old-fashioned way, using the existing meters.
“Vancouver was looking for a way to make paying for parking more convenient, and Parking Kitty does just that,” Sam Warnecke, sales executive at Passport, said in the press release. “We are thrilled to see this local favorite begin to expand to other areas of the Pacific Northwest region.”