City launches new mobile parking app


The city of Grand Rapids is set to deploy a replacement parking app intended to be more efficient than Parkmobile and tailored specifically to the city’s parking system.

Mobile GR and Parking Services launched Motu, the new app replacing Parkmobile, on June 21.

In addition to paying for metered parking, the Motu app has a customized design for Grand Rapids and allows drivers to monitor their parking sessions, view payment history and receive email receipts. Drivers also can extend parking time with no added cost.

The name Motu comes from the city’s Latin motto, Motu Viget, roughly translating to strength in activity. Josh Naramore, Mobile GR and Parking Services manager, said the name would reflect the app's integration with other transit services throughout the city.

“The idea is that you pay for parking, and you can eventually pay for transit,” he said. “It works with the Wave card that The Rapid is going to be deploying later this summer, and you’ll actually be able to pay for bike share.”

Naramore said the city has ordered new signs and decals for public parking meters, and the Motu app will be available for Androids and iPhones.

Parkmobile’s public parking services in Grand Rapids ceased being effective June 21, according to an email to Parkmobile users, but the app will continue to operate at Grand Valley State University, Traverse City, Petoskey, Kalamazoo and private parking facilities in Grand Rapids.

Earlier this year, the city decided to end its contract with Parkmobile because of localization issues.

Motu is a localized app made specifically for Grand Rapids’ public parking infrastructure, amending one of the problems with Parkmobile that Naramore previously told the Business Journal, where people would accidentally pay to park in Milwaukee.

“Also there were some network connectivity problems we’ve been having with Parkmobile,” Naramore said. “(Motu is) just a more stable app environment. We’ve had to test it a little bit because it hasn’t been out there as much.”

Naramore said Motu also allows Mobile GR to streamline the city’s parking zones based on location, price point and hours of operation, whereas under Parkmobile, every parking space was its own zone.

“So, we’ve gone from, like, 2,700 zones down to like 70 or 80 zones, and it allows us to be a little bit more flexible with that moving forward,” he said.

Motu is powered by Passport, a company that has done localized parking apps for other cities, including ParkChicago, ParkDetroit, epark in Ann Arbor and other programs for Michigan State University and East Lansing.

“They’re fast growing in Michigan and replacing Parkmobile,” Naramore said.

To promote Motu, Naramore said Mobile GR will have a “street team” deployed downtown, as well as incentives where some users will get a discount on their first session with the app.

“We’re going to go out and educate people on that and work with ambassadors, and we’ve already hired some folks for the summer to do some more marketing,” he said.

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