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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane ponders ending agreement with pay-by-phone parking service over unpaid fees

FILE – City Planner Dave Steele holds up his cellphone to demonstrate how patrons can use their cellphones to pay for parking with Spokane’s new smart parking meters on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014, in downtown Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The company providing pay-by-cellphone service at parking meters in Spokane has not paid the city nearly $80,000 in promised revenue, according to City Hall.

Jonathan Mallahan, director of building and neighborhood services, said the city has been negotiating with the Canadian company LocoMobi for the repayment of parking fees collected through the company’s QuickPay smartphone application, without success.

On Monday, Mallahan expects the city to send a letter requesting an end of services unless the amount owed to the city is paid in full, which could leave downtown meter payers without the option of paying by phone.

“The vendor is not working as much as we’d like,” Mallahan said.

The city received a payment of $15,000 from LocoMobi on Friday, but that did not cover the $93,000 the city was owed by the company through the end of January, Mallahan said.

A stoppage of services would likely occur early next week, Mallahan said. The city will communicate with parkers about the availability of the service, and Mallahan said the options of paying by credit card and coins will remain.

Phone and email messages to LocoMobi’s corporate offices in Toronto were not returned Friday afternoon. Phone and email messages to Duncan Solutions, the company that installed Spokane’s downtown parking meters and with which LocoMobi had an agreement to provide the pay-by-phone service, also were not returned.

Mallahan said the city is seeking a vendor to provide stopgap services until a new, long-term contract is negotiated with another company.

“There will be an interruption to users of the mobile parking system,” Mallahan said. “I do not anticipate it extending broader than a month, and hopefully less.”

Parking revenue from the pay-by-phone service, which was first implemented in November 2014, makes up a small portion of the total meter receipts, Mallahan said. He could not provide an exact figure Friday.

The city has requested bids from different firms to provide mobile parking payment services, which are due to City Hall by 1 p.m. March 20.

Heather Trautman, Spokane’s director of neighborhood services and code enforcement, said the bidding process would allow the city to seek a parking system operator that would best serve downtown parkers. She said options such as partnerships with local businesses to provide discounted parking would be on the table.

“We’re looking at ways of making the system more customer-friendly, and to be able to more fully respond to issues” like defective or damaged meters, Trautman said.

Trautman said 800 of the city’s parking meters are credit card-enabled. The City Council approved a measure in October calling for stricter enforcement of parking time limits downtown, at the request of business owners.