UI, Iowa City’s parking system changed. Here’s what you need to know

ParkMobile is the new parking vendor for the UI and the City of Iowa City after the former contract with the parking vendor expired.


Matthew Kennedy

A new ParkMobile meter stand by the road, on Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, nearby the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center.

Madeleine Willis, News Reporter

Iowa City community members now have a new way to pay for parking after the University of Iowa and the City of Iowa City switched to a new app last month.

Both the city and the university changed parking vendors after their contract with the parking app Passport Parking expired.

The new parking vendor seen around campus and downtown is ParkMobile, an app which helps people both pay for and find parkparking on their phones.

Erin Shane, UI associate director of parking and transportation, said ParkMobile has more benefits  than the Passport Parking app.

“ParkMobile has pursued other avenues for reservations for parking. They have multiple ways to pay [via] text and web,” she said. “You can call which was appealing to us since we changed our meter inventory.”

The rate for parking for university hourly parking in mobile payment zone is a fixed rate based upon the location. The fees that vendors charge to provide the service, including fees to the customer and municipality or institution, varies from vendor to vendor but are determined by the contract.

Debby Zumbach, UI associate vice president of business services and director of parking and transportation, said the previous vendor had a fee that the university chose not to pass on to the customers when they paid for their parking.

Zumbach said all their peers, including Iowa State and the City of Iowa City, passes on the fee to customers.

“It really wasn’t about revenue generating,” she said. “It was about the fairness of making all parking spaces equal to the customer in what was being charged.”

Each vendor that submitted their fee schedules in their proposals. After the UI reviewed all proposals, ParkMobile was the preferred vendor. Their service includes a $0.35 transaction fee.

In their previous contract with Passport Parking, UI Parking and Transportation absorbed the transaction fees.

Zumbach said the change to pass on the transaction reflected aligning our practices with the UI’s peers and a reflection of the higher transaction fees from vendors.

While the mode of payment has changed, the hours in which a person can park in a designated space in Iowa City has not.

“The parking enforcement hours have not changed in any zone with the change of the vendor,” she said.

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In the past few years, Shane said the parking and transportation department has seen an increase in students bringing cars to campus and using university parking. However, the numbers are not yet back to the amount before COVID-19, she said.

“We are getting back to normal in terms of demand and volume and traffic to our facilities,” Shane said.

Sofia Manzano, a UI second-year student, brought their car to campus for the first time this year after receiving a permanent parking spot at Mayflower Residence Hall. Manzano said they enjoy the perks offered by having a car on campus.

“I like not having to wait for the bus, and it is very convenient to get groceries,” Manzano said.

While Manzano is glad to have their car on campus, they said their encounter with university parking has been stressful.

“A lot of people bring their cars here, and the parking app sometimes doesn’t work,” they said. “Now I need to find a parking spot in downtown Iowa City … That’s not going to happen.”

Manzano said they know the university and city are trying their best. Because Iowa City is a college town, they said they understand parking is not always going to be accessible, and it will often be busy. However, they wish the Passport Parking app would come back to campus and the city.

In Manzano’s opinion, the UI needs to find a better way for people to use the app while keeping it affordable.

“Definitely just make it more accessible and more lenient,” they said. “[The UI … can’t just be like, ‘Oh, free parking for everyone.’ That’s not right. That’s not realistic.”

Editor’s Note: In a previously published article, Shane said the rates vendors charge vary depending on the amount of traffic the app receives during that time. The rate does not change or very at all based upon app traffic. Additionally, it was reported Shane said on the customer’s end, ParkMobile charges $0.35 per transaction while Passport Parking charges $0.75. The UI did not provide the fee per transaction for Passport Parking. Each vendor that submitted their fee schedules in their proposals. The story has been updated, and the DI regrets these errors.