A Parking App For Hamilton

By Matt McPeak
Published February 28, 2013

There are times when I feel I’ve thought of a great, original idea - only to find that it has already been thought of and executed.  My most recent example of this is a QR Code Parking App.  This app would allow you to find an open spot, scan the meter you parked at, pay for time through your phone, and add more time remotely if need-be.

I quickly found that other areas, in the US and Australia, had implemented similar solutions - none exactly how I had envisioned though. While this concept is still in its infancy, here’s what I have so far.

Thoughts and Goals

I used myself as the ideal target market and started creating something with the following in mind:

The Setup

Using the existing infrastructure, the following would need to be implemented:

How It Works

In the app settings, each user will enter in their license plate number. This will be used to confirm that meter payments are associated with the proper vehicle. A typical scenario would look like this:

  1. Find a Spot using the map (either hands free or just below the line-of-sight of your car window).  Everyone seems to be staring into their lap at intersections these days ...what gives?
  2. Scan the code or enter the serial number of the meter. This will link your license plate to the meter and prompt you to add time.
  3. Add money (either by prepaid credits or credit card) in $0.25 increments and confirm your payment once your limit is reached.
  4. Re-up if needed.  If you’re stuck in a meeting or in a restaurant, the app will notify you when your meter is about to expire and offer the option of adding more time from your phone. On the other hand, if you arrive back at your car sooner than you anticipated, the app will allow you to bank your unused time.
  5. 5. For policing purposes, Parking Officers can scan each meter to get current info on your status.

Going Forward

This app is just an idea I had for Hamilton. Even the process of writing this article has exposed some areas that need to be more thoroughly thought-out. It’s a rough concept of what parking could be like, especially as software becomes more integrated with our physical world.  This idea could also be adapted to accommodate Municipal lots and Street parking that use ticket machines instead of meters.  The idea is also not tied down to any one city - ideally, this app could be used for parking wherever you go.

Please share some more ideas in the comments.  I’ll continue to think about and develop new and more intuitive user interfaces for this idea.

This article was originally published on factor[e]'s blog.

Matt McPeak is the Art Director at factor[e] design initiative, a local design, strategy and technology. He lives and works in downtown Hamilton. On Twitter:


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By PopTheTrunk (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 16:48:46

That is really a fantastic idea. Maybe add a NFC to link the phone to the meter when those QR codes eventually become extinct.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 09:08:03 in reply to Comment 86908

That's the SFPark solution, though there is a transaction fee of 45¢ applied.

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By AnjoMan (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 09:02:20 in reply to Comment 86908

No problem! RFID tags are pretty cheap these days, I think. We could crowd-source the installation of RFID tags/QR codes to save money.

Comment edited by AnjoMan on 2013-03-01 09:02:55

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By The Future (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 08:20:13 in reply to Comment 86908

NFC for sure. Bar codes are a crap hack that can't die soon enough.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2013 at 18:11:41

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 09:09:25 in reply to Comment 86910

The percentage of daily Estonian parking payments paid using m-Parking: 90% (system introduced in 2000)

The percentage of Canadian smartphone owners who use QR Codes: 16% (as of Dec 2011, according to Comcast)

Low-tech but fault-tolerant: Maybe the parking meters' respective serial numbers are sufficient? More advanced solutions inevitably seem to involve technological hurdles that impede adoption by mainstream users. Or municipalities, for that matter: A significant unknown in this equation is how much the city is willing to invest in real-time handheld devices.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 01, 2013 at 21:22:10

Fantastic idea! I can't help but wonder if the city would even be interest in this though. How much income do they rely on each year from parking tickets? This would drastically cut into that income.

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By LOL all over again (anonymous) | Posted March 03, 2013 at 15:56:49

Assuming the city would get a cut of the $0.45 charged per transaction, as stated in one of the articles, then it might very well be revenue neutral for the city. The sheer number of transactions makes up for the much higher valued tickets.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 13, 2013 at 14:16:05

Another first for Estonia.

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By ispeakcanadian (registered) - website | Posted March 13, 2013 at 16:27:49

Any way that people can pay for parking with their phone and/or credit card is FINE BY ME! We just moved from Calgary where they have the ParkPlus system. You sign up online, load in your credit card, phone number and license plate number(s) then call a number when you park and enter which zone you're in. Then when you leave, you call the number again to end your session. Meters don't exist, just pay stations. You also don't have to carry cash which is something I'm still not used to. And the best best best part of it all is that you literally pay for parking by the minute. You never overpay by jamming $2 in the meter when you really only need $1.50 worth. Putting $20 on your account goes a looooong way (I parked on $20 for a year, as a casual downtown driver/parker.

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By medwik (registered) - website | Posted July 23, 2017 at 21:21:15

The option of mobile payment will make the process of parking downtown quick and convenient, which is great for both parkers and small businesses,” Smith said. “It will be a welcomed change to carrying around coins and will make it easier for customers to support downtown Hamilton’s small businesses.”

The move to offer pay by app at parking meters is a sign of the times — fewer people are carrying change around, opting for debit and credit cards instead of cash to pay for expenses.

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