O'HARE — The city soon will give drivers the option to pay with their smartphones at parking meters, according to the mayor.
The "pay-by-cell program," which technically will be available only to iPhone and Android users with credit cards, will kick off Downtown this spring before the option is rolled out "neighborhood by neighborhood" to the rest of the city, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Monday in a news conference on the Northwest Side. A date for the launch has not been announced.
Emanuel said the convenience was intended for drivers "so they don't have to be climbing over snow" or have to deal with any sort of inclement weather and can pay from inside their car.
Drivers buying two hours or more will pay no additional cost, but Chicago Parking Meters will tack on a 35-cent "convenience fee" for transactions shorter than that. The firm argued for that because it feared it might lose income, as drivers who pay that way will receive text alerts when their time is running out and be able to add time from a remote location.
Emanuel added that the concession was won last year in renegotiations with Chicago Parking Meters over its 75-year deal, which Emanuel repeated was "a real lemon for the City of Chicago."
The mobile app will allow motorists to enter their meter number and parking time without having to walk to a meter box or display a printed receipt on their dashboards.
Emanuel also touted free Sunday parking, throughout what he said was 81 percent of the city and included in those renegotiations.
Yet some aldermen said they felt they got taken for a ride on that part of the deal. Their business districts need the parking space turnover on Sundays that comes with paid street parking, they said.
But the mayor so far has not changed his mind about free Sunday parking in areas like Wrigleyville, Lincoln Park and Six Corners.
"I don't believe anything has been decided on that," mayoral spokesman Bill McCaffrey said Monday.