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City of Buffalo hopes to soon add smartphone option for parking payments

WBFO file photo

The City of Buffalo is hoping that, by spring, motorists will have an additional option to pay for their parking - their smartphones.

The system involves a motorist, upon parking, activating an app through which he or she purchases time to use that space to a registered credit account. 

The holdup, explained Buffalo Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer, is the need to upgrade enforcement officers' electronic scanning and ticket-printing devices.

"Out ticket writers are probably seven or eight years old," he said. "We had to get a (request for proposals) to get our ticket writers upgraded."

Coin operated meters and the more recent "pay and display" kiosks, which give the motorist a printed receipt to display on the dashboard, will remain in operation once the smartphone option is finally implemented. Enforcement officers making their rounds would continue to check whether the coin meter is still running, if it applies, or whether a valid receipt is inside the vehicle.

But what happens if a smartphone-based purchase is incorrectly written up as a parking violation? Helfer says while people using the smartphone option might not have a printed receipt, they'll have proof of purchase on their phones.

"We want those people to immediately plead not guilty to that ticket, and the reason why is because they paid by cell," Helfer explained. "They'll have an electronic record. We can go right to the back, check that and clear the ticket if we made a mistake."

The City of Buffalo, at the beginning of this month, began imposing increased penalties for parking violations, most of them by 10 dollars more than previously. Helfer says the increased penalties are meant to discourage motorists from overstaying their paid time.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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