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Parking changes: MDDA switching over to new digital permit system this week

Cindy Johnson of Marquette feeds one of the meters in the Marquette City Commons parking lot in July 2017. The Marquette Downtown Development Authority launched its new digital parking permit system this week as phase two of an ongoing project to update its parking system. Phase one was the introduction of the Passport mobile app, which allows customers to pay for parking through the app instead of manually feeding the meter as Johnson is pictured doing. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE — The Marquette Downtown Development Authority took another step in an ongoing project with the launch of its new digital parking permit system this week.

It’s the second phase of a project that’s been in the works for awhile, according to MDDA operations administrator Sarah Trumbley.

“This is phase two of a transition that has been in the pipeline for about a year,” she said. “Phase one was the introduction of the Passport mobile app for parking at meters using your smartphone. The DDA chose Passport because they were able to provide both mobile pay through the app and digital permits through a web portal.

“We were initially thinking of the convenience of paying for parking without having to stand at a meter in the cold and having 24/7 access to your parking permit through your phone or PC, but COVID-19 has made contactless parking even more relevant.”

Digital permits went on sale Monday. Anyone can purchase one, but Trumbley said they’re geared toward business owners and employees.

“They are open to anyone, but we especially encourage businesses and employees to use them to keep the metered spaces free for their customers,” she said. “A monthly permit represents the best value parking for someone who works downtown, full-time during the week. As downtown living has become increasingly popular, we have several residents and Airbnbs who are utilizing our 24-hour permits too.”

Trumbley said the MDDA worked closely with previous permit holders to ensure they’re in the new system before selling permits to new customers. Permit holders are no longer required to display a physical paper permit as of Oct. 1.

“That part of the transition is done and people now have the option to purchase new permits,” she said. “They will need an email address and their license plate number. For this first period, there will be a short delay between applying and approval, as we are just checking the permits as they come in, because the system is new to everyone. Moving forward, they’ll be able to purchase a daytime permit and have it go live in the system immediately.”

It takes some time to get any new system up to speed, but Trumbley said the transition has gone smoothly for the most part thanks to the MDDA’s partnership with Passport.

“I think any new process will have its moments as people learn how to use it,” she said. “And certainly COVID-19 brings its own set of challenges to any implementation, but we have a great partner in Passport and their team has worked really hard to make sure the transition has gone as smoothly as possible.

“We are already getting very positive feedback from our customers about the flexibility and level of control they have over their accounts now.”

What about the benefits of digital permitting? Trumbley said ease of use is key.

“I guess the first one that comes to mind is not being able to lose your permit,” she said. “We’ve had dogs eat them, detailers remove them from cars and Airbnb customers drive off with them. But also being able to purchase and manage your permit at a time most convenient to you — rather than just during our office hours — and the permit being immediately active in the system — so there’s no more waiting for it to arrive in the mail — is important in a vibrant downtown like Marquette.

“A lot of people seem to be liking the auto-renew option and as I mentioned before, the ability to provide people with contactless parking options is more important than ever.”

New on-street parking meters were installed in the city in 2017, with the MDDA launching its partnership with Passport in December.

Downtown visitors using the meters do not need to use the mobile app to pay for parking. Users are still able to pay at the meter with change, debit or credit card at a rate of 50 cents per hour. Paid parking is enforced from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

Parking revenue goes toward snow removal and upkeep of parking lots.

Trumbley also wants to remind folks of the city’s winter overnight parking ban.

“It’s probably a good time to remind everyone that Marquette’s winter parking ban goes into effect on Nov. 1,” she said. “We hope (the public) will continue to support our local businesses by visiting downtown Marquette safely by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and taking advantage of one of our contactless parking options or free 15-minute curbside pick-up spots, where available.”

The parking ban runs from Nov. 1 to April 1 and prohibits parking on any city street from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. to allow the public works department to maintain and plow the roads. Any violation will result in a $75 fine.

For more information on downtown Marquette parking or to purchase a digital permit, visit www.downtownmarquette.org or contact the DDA at 906-228-9475. The Passport Parking app can be downloaded on Apple and Google Play stores on your mobile device.

Ryan Spitza can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. His email address is rspitza@miningjournal.net.

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