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It has happened to all of us at one point or another. You’re sitting in a meeting, a restaurant or a movie, and it hits you: “Oh shoot, I need to refill the parking meter.”

Typically, that sparks a mad dash to the street in order to make it to the meter before your time runs out. Well, a new service that’s coming to Seattle could help solve that problem.

It’s called PayByPhone, and recent drivers (and parkers) in Vancouver, B.C. know just how it works. Basically, the app allows drivers to pay the meter with their mobile phones, and then set a text message alert notifying them if time is about to run out.

Today, it was announced that The City of Seattle plans to introduce the new payment service at about 13,000 on-street paid parking areas. For those who don’t download the PayByPhone mobile app (for Android, BlackBerry and iOS), users can call a toll-free number in order to institute payment. Users, who have entered their credit card information and license plate number, make a payment by entering the block’s unique location number and the amount of parking time desired.

That information then syncs with the parking enforcement officer’s handheld device,  allowing them to peruse whether certain vehicles have paid up on the blocks they patrol. The service won’t replace the traditional green kiosks now found on Seattle streets, but PayByPhone’s Chris Morisawa tells GeekWire that the service does offer added convenience.

In addition to the text message alerts and automatic repayments, Morisawa said that customers can pay from wherever they are.

“If it is raining, I can do it in the car. Or, if I am late for a meeting, I can do it while I am walking,” said Morisawa.

The PayByPhone service does have an added charge of 35 cents per transaction, but Morisawa said that’s a small fee when faced with the expense of a parking ticket. In Vancouver, B.C. — where PayByPhone was founded — the city actually absorbs the costs of the transaction fee. And in Westminster, England the city has pulled its physical parking meters altogether, switching entirely to the PayByPhone service.

That won’t be happening in Seattle, at least for now. Drivers will still be able to pay via the traditional parking meters, which require users to insert a payment card (and wait a good 30-60 seconds in my experience) for the receipt which needs to be affixed to the window (often leaving a sticky residue and paper clutter in one’s vehicle).

Morisawa said cities like the idea of PayByPhone because it reduces the need for meter maintenance and their handling of coins and cash. It also makes the job of the meter reader far easier.

However, doesn’t it also reduce a revenue stream for cities? After all, it has always been my belief that parking enforcement officers help bring in much-needed funds for cash-strapped cities.

We will see how it plays out when PayByPhone arrives in Seattle this fall.

In fact, some in Seattle have already been able to use the service, since it was first deployed in the city at the private parking lots of Impark and Republic Northwest. Because of those roots and the proximity to Vancouver, Morisawa said that they are thrilled to bring the service to the City of Seattle, one of the company’s larger implementations (Vancouver and Miami have about 8,000 parking spaces utilizing the service, while San Francisco has about 30,000).

“We have been working on it a for a long time,” said Morisawa.

Here’s a closer look at how it works:

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