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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Pay to Park app implemented at Western

A student displays the Parkmobile app, which allows people to pay online and use their plate as a permit. // Matt Pearson
A student displays the Parkmobile app, which allows people to pay online and use their plate as a permit. // Matt Pearson

Your license plate is now your parking permit. Physical permits are no longer required.

Parking Services announced on Monday, June 20, vehicles parked on campus must have their license plate accurately registered in Western Washington University’s parking system, or they will incur a citation.

The same day, Parking Services released the Parkmobile app, which enables users to pay for short term parking on their smartphones.

License plates can be registered through Western’s Parking Portal or in person at the Student Business Office in Old Main 110.

Students and faculty have given mixed reviews about the online registration system.

Junior Devin Bo said he struggled to find the right things to click on while using the website. Instead, he advised going to Parking Services in person.

“Online, you’re going to sit there for 30 minutes and get really confused,” Bo said.

Senior Kay Dien Fox had trouble registering her license plate online and ended up going to the Student Business Office in person.

“I didn’t understand how to fully make a new account,” Fox said. “They even had a video and I still couldn’t get it.”

Josh Heflin, a recent graduate with a degree in anthropology, said his experience with registering his license plate was quick and simple, but said it took him a while to find the right link.

Freshman Brandon Phetsada had no difficulty when registering his license plate and gave the new system a positive review.

“It was fairly easy registering online,” Phetsada said.

Assistant professor Dan Pollard found the process to be easy as well.

“It was pretty straightforward,” Pollard said. “I was pleased to see that you could register more than one car under a given parking pass.”

Western implemented the new system partly in response to the hassle of managing physical hang tags – the permits that hang from the rearview mirrors of vehicles – said Bob Putich, manager of the student business office. Time was wasted when citations were written for people who forgot their hang tags at home and then had to file an appeal, Putich said.

Guest parking was also an issue. In the past, guests would park and then have to walk to Parking Services to pick up their hang tag. During that time, they are illegally parked.

“We’re currently writing warnings for folks who haven’t updated their license plate information so we’re not out there citing people. This isn’t a revenue generating project at all. It was really an expense management project and it seems to be pretty effective.”

Bob Putich

License plate reading doesn’t accommodate guests as easily as Parking Services would like, Putich said. This is where the Parkmobile app comes into play. Guests are able to pay for temporary parking, via their smartphones, in the south end lots (C, 12A, 22G, 24G and 32G).

The Parkmobile app can be used on iPhone, Android, Windows, Amazon, and Blackberry phones. Users can also pay for parking online at parkmobile.com or by calling the toll-free number on the green meter stickers and signs posted by the campus parking lots.

To begin a parking transaction, the user can manually input the numbered parking zone displayed in their lot, scan the QR code, or choose the particular zone using the app’s GPS system, which indicates different zones in the area, according to Parkmobile.

Other features of the app include the ability to extend the parking session on the go, receive a notification 15 minutes before the session expires and to remember any recently used parking zones, states Parkmobile.

“It seemed easy [to navigate]. You have a read a little bit, but it’s not as complicated as Instagram or Twitter,” Bo said.

Parking Services lets students in the Student Business Office use the app in order to assess what works and what doesn’t.

The more users send Parking Services feedback, the better the app gets, Putich said.

“We’re currently writing warnings for folks who haven’t updated their license plate information so we’re not out there citing people. This isn’t a revenue generating project at all,” Putich said. “It was really an expense management project and it seems to be pretty effective.”

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