Portland, Oregon, continued to keep it weird (and cute) this week when it rolled out Parking Kitty, a new app that lets you pay for metered parking. The app is based on Passport, one of the largest parking payment vendors in the United States. “We didn’t make a lot of changes,” said Malisa McCreedy, the parking division manager at the Portland Bureau of Transportation. “But we did put our local face on it.”
And that face is adorable. Parking Kitty has a cat-faced icon and a feline theme. When you pay, it purrs. When your meter is about to expire, it meows. “We wanted something that was not too automotive-tied and was a more universal app,” McCreedy said. “What could we do that was fun and memorable?”
The challenge, McCreedy said, wasn’t in the branding. PDOT had to test the app to make sure it worked with other systems and services that were already in place and with vendors. And with a new way to pay, there had to be a new way to enforce parking regulations. All the data from Parking Kitty is stored in the same place as data from the physical pay stations at the curb. Parking patrols can’t just look at the meter or the receipt in the window when someone has paid with Parking Kitty; they’ll have to check in with the database.
The app works in 27 of the city’s parking zones, as well as in Washington Park and parking garages at Portland State University. PSU and Washington Park already had separate contracts with Passport, but McReedy said that no one wanted users to have three apps to accomplish the same thing. So the university, the park, and the city worked together to create Parking Kitty.
Being an automotive journalist and owner of three cats, I tried the app the day it was released. It worked seamlessly, and I didn’t mind paying a 10-cent transaction fee for the convenience of being able to re-up my meter when my meeting a few blocks away ran long. But who am I kidding — I’m paying that 10 cents for the meowing reminder. Cute!
Edited May 21, 2017, to correct the agency’s name to Portland Bureau of Transportation.