The Cost, Trouble Of Parking In South Florida

Dec 21, 2018

Travelers visiting Miami this holiday season will be paying more for parking come New Year’s Day.

City commissioners recently decided on increasing parking rates for non-residents, who’ll be charged $3 or more per hour to park. If you live in the city and register through the PayByPhone app, you’ll pay $1.40 per hour.

As more cities across South Florida turn to parking apps, residents face new problems. WLRN asked listeners about their parking troubles and received a flood of responses.

“The app is frozen half the time or it can’t find your location,” said Janet Blanco from South Miami. “My parents who are elderly could never do it. It’s a task every time they park.”

Ashely van Dokkum from Pembroke Pines ran into an issue at the Hollywood Beach parking garage.

“The code for the machine cannot be found in the app,” she said. “Therefore I cannot pay. I constantly have to then go to the meter and pay using regular cards or cash – which is more expensive.”

Diane Bockelman from the Redlands ended up paying $78 for four hours of parking to attend an event at the Olympia Theater in downtown Miami.

“The parking authority caught me during the few minutes that the parking lapsed,” she said.

On the South Florida Roundup hosted by Tom Hudson, WLRN reporter Danny Rivero explained the parking changes and their potential side-effects, including data privacy.

RIVERO: If you are a city Miami resident, in an effort for the commission to appease their own constituents, they said, 'Look we're going to offer city residents their own rate.' So it's going to be a $1.40 rate across the city – which is in some cases cheaper than what people are paying now. The catch is the only way to get that is to register through the PaybyPhone app. And you have to have a smartphone. So you know, Android, iPhone, you have to download it, input all your information, like your license plate number. This app is owned by Volkswagen, which is the largest car manufacturer in the world. It pretty explicitly shares that data that it collects with other people.

WLRN: What does it say in the terms of service in regards to personal data? What are we actually agreeing to? 

You're agreeing that your information can be shared with third parties. That means possibly other companies, other government agencies, law enforcement. This is the kind of thing that can be subpoenaed. Say someone's going through a divorce and your current spouse wants to know where you've been parking. Well, they can subpoena that. 

How does the app work for folks who are not city residents? What are they going to face in 2019? Just a higher fee based on location, right? 

Yeah a higher fee based on location. If you're not registered through the city with the app, that you have an address within the city limits, then you're going to be charged the the new rates. That varies depending on the neighborhood. One thing I would add is setting up this program this way where you have to register through the app actually poses a little bit of a burden for some of the poorest city residents. Not everyone has a cell phone necessarily or if you have a cell phone not everyone has a smartphone. And not everyone has a bank account. 

The app only works with some kind of credit or debit card, right? 

I posed this question to the Miami parking authority. 'How is this going to be rolled out if someone's unbanked? How are they going to do this?' And they said, 'Well if they don't have a credit or a debit card, they're going to have to pay the increased rates because there's no way that they can register to get this.' 

Some of those kiosks only take credit cards. They don't take cash either. And in regards to the actual device that you need now to park, the smart phone, a number of folks may pay for data. So they're concerned about how much uploading and downloading they're using on those smartphones. Every time you open that app you're going to be starting to run the ticker on the data that you're using on your cell phone plan. 

That's exactly true. Talking to some technology policy experts, one thing they said we're in a we're in a position where the Internet is nearly ubiquitous. It's not really considered a right. I mean there's not publicly available mobile data coverage. 

It's not regulated like a public utility is. 

Exactly. But it's increasingly being merged with basic city services. I mean parking on the street is the most basic of city services. And if your ability to park on the street is predicated on them assuming that you have internet access there is a gap there.

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