July 26, 2017

Hartford unveils street-parking app

Gregory Seay
Gregory Seay
A Hartford parking kiosk.

Hartford's parking overseer is unveiling a new app to make it easier for users of the city's 1,800 curbside spaces downtown to pay for initial time, extend time or be alerted before their meter expires.

The Hartford Parking Authority (HPA) said its mobile parking app can be downloaded free, starting Wednesday, to motorists via Google Player or the iTunes App Store. Users can also manage their parking online at www.WoonerfCT.com.

To download, users of Android or iPhone smartphones go to either online store, and type in "Woonerf" -- the name for HPA's mobile-payments app, said HPA CEO Eric Boone.

There is no extra fee to city residents and visitors for using the app, and street-parking rates will stay unchanged for now, Boone said.

Woonerf is a Dutch word that loosely translates to "living street,'' Boone said. It embodies the city's holistic concept of integrating pedestrians, motoring, biking, parking and mass transit.

The Woonerf app also offers other features, Boone said. It allows merchants to validate metered parking for customers; allows motorists to set up an e-wallet to purchase parking at a discount, and allows motorists to purchase a "bonus" hour if they are in danger of getting a parking ticket.

"By providing a custom mobile parking solution, we will be able to make our city more livable and walkable, and support the growth of a new generation choosing to make downtown their home," he said. "We realize that the world has gotten to a point where most people feel comfortable with the notion that parking can be app-based," Boone added.

The Woonerf app is designed to be scalable, Boone said. That means the app offers a "plug-in-and-play" feature so neighboring towns that want to extend Woonerf's mobile-pay options to their parkers, can do so, he said.

The new app also lets Hartford take steps to rein in parkers who abuse "handicapped-parking'' placards to obtain free parking, Boone said.

The app is the latest in a series of steps the city's parking agency has taken in recent months to improve the parking experience curbside, in its garages and on its surface lots.

In Jan., HPA upgraded its black, vertical parking kiosks with new technology for collecting parkers' license-plate info. In mid-April, HPA announced that, with the new technology, parkers no longer needed to display their payment receipts on dashboards or windshields.

More changes are on the way.

With Woonerf in place, starting Sept. 1, HPA will no longer offer free metered parking to vehicles displaying the blue-and-white handicapped placards.

"In the downtown area, one out of six cars in a metered space currently displays an accessible parking permit, indicating there is a significant amount of permit abuse,'' Boone said. "This means that those truly in need must overcome the challenge and frustration of not being able to access parking in close proximity to the places they frequent.''

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