The Sheer Joy of MKE Parking App

It's simple, pay for parking on your cell phone. But what about that user fee?

By - Jul 22nd, 2015 11:26 am
MKE Park app.

MKE Park app.

Milwaukeeans have more than likely seen stickers on their parking meters saying “Download The App” followed by a grouping of numbers. The city’s website touts this as “parking made simple.” The app, dubbed MKE Park, allows drivers to use their phone to plug the meter, instead of the change in their pockets.

The app was launched in April as the result of a collaboration between Milwaukee’s Department of Public Works and national firm ParkMobile. It can be used all over the city for metered on-street parking and publicly-owned lots. The app does not work with parking structures or private lots. Basically if that sneaky white Jeep can give you a ticket, you can use the app for that spot.

The Numbers

Sandra Walton, DPW communications manager, provided us with usage numbers on the app so far. The app had its soft launch the week of April 20 and then the official launch a week later. Meaning, we assume, it’s fully launched. From that soft launch to June 27 there have been 17,365 downloads; that doesn’t mean every download was a completed transaction — the city doesn’t have precise figures for daily users or even users. Sorry.

The app works for parking all over the city and even includes UW-Milwaukee parking. Milwaukee has thousands of metered parking spaces and with a two hour limit this means there’s a potential for hundreds of thousands of transactions per week, almost equal to the number of stars you can see on a clear night.

Walton said through the week of June 21, $60,927 has been the amount paid for parking using the app. Along with $12,627 in transactional fees. Yes, convenience costs you.

“The city does not get any of the transactional fees,” Walton said in an email. “They go to ParkMobile.” In exchange, the city did not have to pay to develop the app.

That’s got us all here scratching our heads on how we didn’t think of this idea and make $12,000 in only nine weeks.

In the first week during the soft launch the app had 544 total transactions in the city, but that had risen 5,147 total transactions in the week of June 8.

Over this beginning period the app has averaged 3,707 transactions on a weekly basis.

With the app, parking in Milwaukee will cost you $3.38 for two hours. Three dollars goes to using the city’s prime space in a well-lit neighborhood, and 38 cents goes to ParkMobile.

That still leaves the inconvenience of being unable to leave a car parked in a space for over two hours even though I could pay for it directly from my phone. This two-hour limit stems from the goal of promoting circulation in business districts using the on-street spaces.

For the downtown commuter who parks for 8 hours a day it’ll cost over $13 and three trips out to the car. For someone going into the city for lunch it will amount to less than three bucks.


Parkmobile is currently operating in a multitude of U.S. cities. A map on their websites show that New York, Boston and Washington D.C. area’s are heavily using the app along with Denver and Los Angeles area. So we’re up there with the cool cities.

The question this leaves us with: will most people heed the siren call of MKE Park and download the app? Or will Milwaukee remain the thrifty city it’s always been, the kind where most people will use coins to avoid that 38 cent user fee. The world, or at least Parkmobile, eagerly awaits the answer.


7 thoughts on “The Sheer Joy of MKE Parking App”

  1. S. Mishka says:

    This is not a “parking” app. This app is a data-collection app. The notion that it’s supposed to collect parking fees is trivial. IF you actually manage to download and launch the app, it then walks you through many steps collecting all sorts of personal information from you – including credit card number, bank information, your address, license plate, make and model of car, full name – it stops just short of collecting your first born child. After you put in all of your personally-identifying information, the app “errors out” and cannot complete the transaction to allow you to park. But they sure did manage to collect all of your information!

    Why would anyone subject themselves to that amount of personal data collection just to park a car?

    The fact that the user fees are sky-high doesn’t concern the city government in the least. They get their financial piece of the pie – and do not care that you need to fork over even more money so that “park mobile” can collect your personal information.

    What happens when “park mobile” gets hacked (and businesses, governments, institutions get hacked every single day) and your financial and personal information is stolen? Or can “park mobile” sell your information for use by third parties? Is the city of Milwaukee going to care?

    Of course not. Just like they don’t care that the app doesn’t work, or how users feel about being required to release all of that information to park a car. A very over-complicated process to the simple act of paying to park a car.

    A poorly performing app (doesn’t do what it’s supposedly intended to do) – and a very poor decision on the part of the city of Milwaukee to use this app. A better solution would be to allow people to simply use the existing parking pay stations.

  2. Tim says:

    I guess the alternative is to walk to a meter & pay for your space… what a terrible choice.

  3. person1 says:

    I like this app. It’s very convenient for someone who doesn’t have $2.00 in quarters on hand to feed a traditional parking meter (I’m talking about an old school one that only accepts coins — there are still a lot around the city!).

    I’ve used it before and I’ll use it again!

  4. Kyle says:

    Paying for parking is enough of a hassle on its own, having to pay extra for the privilege of paying for parking just doesn’t sit well with me. If the app were free to users, I’d probably use it, though.

  5. JustTryingToPark says:

    The privacy invasions are too extensive. The Android version of the app requires access to your Identity, Contacts, Location, Photos/Media/Files, Camera, and Device ID & Call Information. It says some of these permissions are just used to “autofill [my profile] during new user registration” but I think I can handle typing in my email address.’s Privacy Policy states that “The type of personal information we may collect could include, for example, your name and mailing address, country, date of birth, gender, telephone and fax numbers, email address, and lifestyle”.

    This app shouldn’t need anything more info than Location, credit card, car appearance, and license plate number. Maybe camera for QR codes, but who uses QR codes anyhow? Unless this app is going to buy me a drink, I’m going to stick to coins.

  6. Flogal says:

    In general this App is great. Very convenient and easy to use. I have had some challenges with the app, however, it is so much more convenient than carrying coins or using the machine (which has not always worked either). Agree that the fee is not good, but I will pay for the convenience.

  7. Milwaukee Parker says:

    Incomplete story. Users don’t have to pay $0.38 per transaction.. If you load a wallet on the website with any amount from $20 or more (like the Illinois toll Ipass), your transaction fee will only be $0.27, or $0.11 less thAn the $0.38 reported. Further if you park at a meter several times a month, you can pay a monthly fee of $0.99 which will lower your transaction fees to $0.25 or $0.20, without or with a pre-paid wallet., respectively. Parking more than about 15 times per month and using the wallet would cost you $0.20 per transacion, $0.18 less than what the reporter discussed. Please report full story, not just a limited version.

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