Paid Parking App: What If You Don’t Have A Cellphone?

Sag Harbor Village may utilize a smartphone app system that will allow car owners to pay for parking.

Collecting fees from the most sought-after parking spaces in Sag Harbor sounds like a no-brainer, right? Especially when the plan doesn’t call for cluttering the sidewalk with meters or payment kiosks.

But a proposal that has gained the favor of the Sag Harbor Village Board to charge to park at most spaces on Long Wharf and Main Street in the village’s business district through a smartphone app administered by ParkMobile has raised concerns it will shut out those who most need to park on Main Street — senior citizens.

The question of what to do about seniors who may not even have a cellphone, let alone a smartphone, was raised at Thursday’s Express Sessions panel on paid parking.

Under the system being considered by the village, those parking in designated spaces would get an hour of free parking before being charged for the additional time they used the parking space. They would be required to download the ParkMobile app even if they parked for an hour or less and pay for the additional time they used through their smartphones. Those who do not have a smartphone would have to call a toll-free number to pay. The ParkMobile system links with the digital system now used by village traffic control officers, so those who did not pay would be ticketed.

Sag Harbor Village Trustee Aidan Corish, who has overseen the rollout of the parking proposal, said this week the village had considered installing ticket kiosks, but concluded they would be too expensive and might be just as difficult, or more difficult, for a senior citizen to navigate.

Mr. Corish said he reviewed data on cellphone use compiled by the Pew Research Center and was pleased to learn that nationwide 80 percent of senior citizens 65 and older had a cellphone of some sort, while 40 percent owned a smartphone. The percentages increase with education and income to the point where 81 percent of those earning $75,000 or more a year have a smartphone, while 97 percent have some type of cellphone. While only 27 percent of those seniors earning less than $30,000 have a smartphone, 73 percent have a cellphone.

Mr. Corish said that the Pew Research statistics were compiled in 2016. Noting that smartphone ownership doubled between 2012 and 2017, he reasoned that more and more senior citizens would own smartphones in the not-too-distant future.

Lex Blum, the regional sales manager for ParkMobile, said the company, which manages parking fee collection for more than 450 municipalities nationwide, including Patchogue, Islip, and Freeport on Long Island, has encountered the concern before.

“This issue has been raised before, but it has never been an issue when we deploy,” he said, while acknowledging that “there is always a learning curve.”

Mr. Blum said it was not the company’s role to advise the village on how to deal with the issue, but said solutions ranging from excluding spaces from the paid program to issuing parking permits for senior citizen residents freeing them from the fees were two possibilities.