GR tweaks Motu parking app after user gripes

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Less than a week ago, Grand Rapids launched a new parking app called “Motu,” replacing the one the city had used for almost a decade, ParkMobile. 

Many of the reviews in the first few days were not great. 

“They did not like that they couldn’t stop a parking session. So on Friday afternoon, we worked with the development team and we instituted that as an option,” said Josh Naramore, Mobile GR director for Grand Rapids.

That was by far the biggest complaint the city got about the new app, but there were more. Users were upset they were not allowed to extend their parking time past the allotted time displayed on a meter, so if the meter is a two-hour meter, two hours was the maximum time their vehicle could remain parked in that spot.

Naramore says the app is following the current city ordinance – something ParkMobile did not.

“On-street parking is not intended for long-term employee use. It’s intended to facilitate turnover so that there is capacity that’s always available,” Naramore explained. “We don’t want people coming downtown and saying ‘there is no parking’ or going to a business district and saying, ‘There is no parking, so I’m not going to go to that restaurant, or I’m not going to go to that retail shop.’”

Users of the app also questioned why the city would switch away from an app that most liked and worked well. Grand Rapids officials said ParkMobile was a national brand which the city had no control over. Motu allows the city to make local decision about the app. 

There are some features also unique to Motu. It allows users to use cash if they want. Users can go to the city parking office and load cash onto the app if they don’t want to use a credit or debit card. Motu will automatically translate into Spanish if that is what your phone is already set to. And Motu allows parking validations.

“If somebody spends a certain dollar amount, you can choose to validate a portion of their on- street parking, or if they stay a certain amount of time at a restaurant or whatever that ends up being. (That was) not able to be offered with ParkMobile,” Naramore said. 

The company that designed and operates Motu also created apps for Ann Arbor, Detroit and Chicago.

Currently Motu has a very low rating in the iPhone app store. However, the developer’s apps for those other cities are rated very well. 

“There are always people who are going to like something or not like something else. But what we are going to be mindful of is it giving people the best customer experience. And if we can make changes and modifications to help support that, we are going to be doing that,” said Naramore.

Anyone with parking needs or questions for the city are encouraged to message them at mobilegr@grcity.us.

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