PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Something big could be coming to Pittsburgh this year, something that promises to forever change your daily experience in the city.
But while it will be revolutionary for Pittsburgh, if you look around you’ll find the revolution has already come.
With Pittsburgh having risen from the rubble of heavy industry into a modern mecca of eds and meds, high-tech and robotics, where would one have to go to find someplace savvier? To where they split the atom?
No. You’d go to where they split the banana.
Latrobe, Pa. – which is recognized for having produced the world’s first ice cream sundae served between banana halves – now boasts another first, at least for this region: a pay-by-phone system for parking meters.
You pull up to a meter. No coins, no credit cards needed, as long as you’ve gone online to register your license plate number and credit card. Then – with a smartphone app – you tap in the unique code you find on each of Latrobe’s meters. You press “start.” Your parking session is underway.
Latrobe’s system was developed by an Israeli firm called Pango. Mayor Rosie Wolford the system is very easy to use.
“I say start parking, and I’m starting parking. And I go about my business,” says Wolford. When she returns to her car, she presses “stop” and is charged only for the time used. Latrobe City Manager Alex Graziani says people love that feature.
“It’s always a guessing game when you come to a meter, how much time to put in, will my meeting be short or long or so forth,” Graziani says. Now, “the session is just like a meter would be inside a cab. So if the appointment only took 20 minutes and you were out in 25, you hit stop, and that’s all you paid for – 25 minutes.”
And then there are the friendly text messages the system sends, warning you when your session is about to expire.
Says Mayor Wolford, “Instead of running out and having to put another quarter in you can just go ahead and tell your app to re-park you.”
She says on multiple occasions those warning texts have saved her from getting a ticket.
Despite those features, not all here are using the smartphone option, choosing to continue to pay with coins.
Gloria Sanderbeck says she’s never used her credit card for anything on the internet and doesn’t like the idea of doing so, “not for a second.”
Alie Starr says she too was reluctant to use the smartphone system – until the day she found herself in a jam without any coins – and became a convert.
“I had no money at all, so I signed up for pay and go. So I like it,” says Starr.
And Joyce Whittaker has grown to like the pay-by-phone system so much she says she’s eager to see other areas adopt it.
“I kind of wish when I would go to Greensburg or somewhere that they would have it,” says Whittaker. They don’t even have it in Pittsburgh!”
No, at least not yet. But Pittsburgh Parking Authority Executive Director David Onorato tells KDKA-TV his goal is to implement a similar system in the city sometime in 2014.