How often has this happened to you?
You're enjoying a nice relaxing dinner at Match or Strada 18 in South Norwalk, and you lose track of time. Or, while shopping at Sassafras or enjoying a cup of coffee with friends at Caffeine, one hour turns into three.
The last thing on your mind is that your parking session has expired, until you see the $25 ticket on your windshield.
The Norwalk Parking Authority and Parkmobile USA don't want residents or visitors to Norwalk to worry about parking ever again.
That's why they launched a pay-by-phone parking service on Tuesday afternoon.
The service offered by Parkmobile allows customers to use a mobile app, the Internet or a phone call to pay for parking at any Parking Authority meter or pay station. Motorists also will be able to select an option to receive text message alerts and reminders 15 minutes before their parking session expires. That way, they can buy themselves more time, avoiding a ticket. The fee is 35 cents per transaction for people who choose to use this convenience.
The launch ceremony took place at a parking meter near 136 Washington St.
"Parking is never easy. People don't like to pay tickets. We are trying to make things better," Norwalk Mayor Richard Moccia said. "We hope the business owners in the area make their customers aware of (the technology). Whether they come in to shop or to dine or have a drink at one of the bars.
"If they are running a little late, they get that text, and they can pay online. That's the important thing."
Norwalk Parking Authority Director Kathryn Hebert said, "Despite the constant efforts to redevelop our communities into more pedestrian-friendly areas and promote alternative transportation methods, no one is giving up their cars. So we need to continue to make parking convenient and easy to find,"
"Parking needs to be very fluid, flexible and responsive and must change as people, businesses and the area change. We are a big part of the overall experience that the public has when they come to our city and we want to make sure that the experience continues to be positive so we are forever looking for ways to improve."
Parkmobile USA was founded in Atlanta and has become one of the largest providers of cashless parking systems in the United States..
Parking management systems have been widely used in Europe since the 1990s, when Parkmobile USA's European counterpart, Parkmobile Group, was founded. Parkmobile USA's pay-by-phone parking service is now available in 24 states.
"We are especially proud today because this is our first city in Connecticut," said Laurens Eckelboom, an executive vice president for Parkmobile USA. "Parkmobile is all about making parking convenient and creating a superior experience. It's about making Norwalk a location for a premium retail experience."
He then demonstrated how easy the service is to use. Just pull into a Parkmobile space -- look for the green Parkmobile sign with the cell phone logo. Use the mobile app or give Parkmobile a call to activate the parking session and key in the parking space number. Expect a text when there are about 15 minutes before the parking session expires.
Hebert said that more than 300 people are already registered for Parkmobile.
For more information, visit www.parkmobile.com.