Albany testing system for paying for parking by mobile app and license plate

Albany parking by mobile sign

You can now pay to park in part of downtown Albany via mobile app.

The Albany Parking Authority launched a pilot program Monday to test new pay-by-app and pay-by-plate meters along State Street. The initial test includes 12 meters and covers about 100 spots on State between Eagle and Broadway.

The new system is the same one we talked with the APA about earlier this year. The idea behind the switch is to provide easier, more flexible parking options for people.

Here are a few more bits about how it works.

New meters

new meter

The most visible change is the installation of new meter boxes along State Street, replacing the old pay-and-display meters. The new boxes work a bit like the old boxes -- you walk up, select how much time you want, enter payment (either cash or credit card) -- but there are some important differences:

new meter closeup

+ The boxes requires you to enter your license plate number. And the system then associates the parking time to your license plate.

+ Because the system now knows the license plate, it's not necessary to put the receipt on the dash. Parking enforcement will be checking license plates, rather than dashboard stubs.

So if you're using the new boxes in similar way to the old pay-and-display boxes, be sure to remember your plate number.

Mobile app

A screenshot from the mobile website for payments.

The biggest change in the new system is the addition of a mobile payment app that allows people to both pay when they park, and then also add time via the app. So, for example, if you're at an event and it runs longer than expected, you can add parking time from the app without returning to your car.

Paying by app requires a credit card. And there's an extra 5-cent per-transaction fee.

The app -- made by a company called Passport, which delivers similar services to other cities -- is free to download for iOS and Android. There's a short sign-up process after you download it.

Monday was the first day the app was active for Albany and it looked there were still a few kinks to work out. When we tried to use it, the app asked for a space number -- which it shouldn't do, just for a zone number (100 for State Street) -- and it also looked like Albany-specific customization wasn't in yet. Update: We've heard from reps for both APA and the app maker that the wrinkles have been straightened. Make sure you grab the specific "Park Albany" app from your app store of choice.

The app functionality is also available via a mobile-friendly website -- -- and that appeared to work as intended when we used it add time Monday afternoon.

APA employee helping parkers
The parking authority has employees out this week answering questions about the new system.

What's next

Albany Parking Authority executive director Matt Peter said Monday the eventual goal to expand both the pay-by-plate boxes and mobile payment system to the city's other pay parking spots. The replacement of old meters could take a few years. But he said the APA hopes to have mobile payments available citywide by the end of 2018.


If you don't have a smart phone does it still accept cash?

What's to prevent someone from entering somebody else's plate number? There must be something I'm missing here.

mg - I haven't viewed the machine in person yet but it looks like there are cash and credit card slots on the face of the machine in the pictures in the article.

This is excellent - especially for motorcycles and convertibles where putting the pay slip on the dash doesn't work.

So is there a reason (a good one) why I can't be un trackable anymore? Why do they need my plate # I mean really?

Don't worry Beavis, for years the cops have been recording your plate's location several times a day with those automatic readers. They already know where you are, and where you've been.

I'm happy to see Albany is updating their parking system, it will be much more convenient!

Dan - If someone else entered in your license plate, wouldn't they essentially be paying for your parking? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm not really seeing a problem with that here....

There's a demonstration video on the Park Albany website for using the new meter -

Beavis and Herbert: The Albany Parking Authority has a vehicle they drive around that's equipped with plate readers. I'm curious to see how this will be used for enforcement at meters -- and in the city's permit parking zones.

And heads up: it's very likely that when your paid period ends, the system will dispatch an enforcement agent to your car's location to make sure you're no still there.

How do I find out what zone I'm parked in if I'm not near my car?

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