Parking in Ripley: There’s an app for that

Suzette Lowe
Cutline: Ripley’s parking enforcement officer, Cheryl Crawford, encourages drivers to use the Pay by Phone app.

Those who park on Ripley’s courthouse square streets may have noticed the meters look a little different.

There are now two ways to pay the meter. The city has added the option to pay using an app. The traditional coin method is still available as well. There also continues to be free parking on the municipal lot behind the post office.

The Pay by Phone app can be downloaded for free. Once the app is on the phone, the vehicle’s model and license plate number, along with method of payment, must be registered. The app will recognize the information each time it is engaged. If a different vehicle is used, simply register the model and license plate and it will be listed as an option.

One feature of the app that most people find useful is the alert it sends when time has almost expired. At that point, an option to extend the time will be given.

“That alert has come in handy for me many times,” said Suzy McGinley, a frequent visitor to downtown. “By using the app, which is very convenient, I’ve saved myself several tickets.”

Ripley’s parking enforcement officer, Cheryl Crawford, said she hopes people will begin to use the app more often.

“Before I ever write a ticket, I check the Pay by Phone app to see if the driver has opted to use that,” she said. “I can see the license plate on my phone and the amount of time left. Even if there’s only one minute, I don’t give a ticket. Now, if they didn’t add more minutes when I loop around to that street again, then I will write one.”

Officer Crawford says she tries to educate people on the app any chance she gets.

“I know how easy it is to let a meter run out. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but unfortunately my job is to enforce parking regulations,” she said. “If they use the app, they’ll find it’s a lot easier to monitor their meters. If the battery on the meter is low, it will say ‘dead’ and I’ll know it wasn’t available.”

Crawford said this new option would be particularly useful for those engaged in courthouse business, including attorneys.

Fines for parking have raised. The first ticket is $5 if paid within eight hours. The cost of a second ticket is an additional $10.

Crawford, who retired from the Charleston, S.C., police department as supervisor of the National Crime Information Center, realizes her job is not the most popular in town.

“No one wants a parking ticket,” she said. “I don’t like giving them either. There have been times when someone is coming up to me just as I’m writing the ticket, ready to put change in the meter. I’ll let them do that and void their ticket. Then I show them the parking app and encourage them to use it.”

The greatest concern Crawford says she hears from people is putting payment information on the app.

“The information is totally encrypted,” she said. “I tell people they don’t need to fear that they’ll be hacked through this parking app.”

Even though people sometimes get upset with her as she’s doing her job, Crawford says she remains calm and handles the situation. She stresses giving a ticket is never personal.

“I once, unknowingly, gave a ticket to the former sheriff,” she said with a smile. “He was in an unmarked vehicle and his time had expired.”

Parking is free on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.