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Parking App and QR Code Signs need a Smart Phone!

Parking in Downtown Red Deer: high tech Parking App & high risk QR codes

Parking downtown used to mean digging for change after finding the perfect spot. Now with the new system you can pay on your phone! There have been some hiccups with the roll out and at least a few times a week we still hear grumbles about how annoying the app is or how the pay station on our block is too far away, but people are coming around to the new system. Our customer service has expanded to include parking concierge services! We have given several clients a hand getting the mobile app set up and explaining to others how the pay station and the QR signs work. We try to alleviate the frustration by guiding them through the process and/or nodding sympathetically while the reluctant ones vent a bit. For the ones dead set against the whole process we do intake on the phone and then run to the curb to grab the machine!

woman using the parking app

New Parking System. New Parking App. New Risk.

A recent article in the Red Deer Advocate pointed out a potential risk when using the Fast Tap signs to pay. The parking debacle appears to be a situation where the parker was using a free QR scanning app to read the Fast Tap sign. An advertisement pop up got in the way and was clicked accidently, activating a payment for a different app instead of the parking fee. When the parking session wasn't confirmed as paid the parker tried again, later noticing the additional charges on his account. Sometimes those sneaky charges will be a one-time quick cash grab but sometimes you have just signed up for an app with an annual fee or a recurring charge and before you notice you have paid for months!

Red Deer Parking App and QR Code Signs

Parking or otherwise putting a third-party app between you and your bank account is risky. We have certainly seen similar things happen with computers. We always remind clients that any free app or unknown software comes with risks. How is the information used or stored? Is your info or data shared? What are the advertising policies? The program or app could be perfectly safe and convenient but if there are ads off to the side you risk ending up in trouble because of an accidental or curious click. Those ads are probably not vetted, and some shady shenanigans could be set off if you follow any advertising links. Even in a reputable app or website the potential for unfriendly folks using a tempting or carefully placed ad to get in front of potential victims is common. The free app, free program or free service could end up costing you more than the few dollars you saved by not purchasing a safer, legitimate product or service.

Is the Parking App More Your Style?

The safer method to pay for parking would be using the Hotspot App. There are no ads in the app that might send you on a dangerous detour. You can get the app from the Apple App Store or from Google Play Store. The parking app itself is free so if you are asked for a payment it is not the correct one! You can set it up at home using your Apple ID, Chrome Account or email before heading downtown or to Red Deer.

To pay you add money to the app from your bank or credit card while you are on secure wifi access at home. Then when you are in public you are not accessing your bank or credit card accounts. You will use the balance in your HotSpot app. You can reload money to the app as needed. The app takes a few minutes to set up in the beginning but is fairly easy to use after that.

The app can be used with multiple vehicles, allowing you to switch between vehicles easily. You will not need an app for each vehicle.

App, Tap or Pay Station- the details are similar.

Whether you use the HotSpot app, a FastTap Sign or you hike to a Pay Station you still need the same info to get parking! Your License Plate number, the Zone number and amount of time you want to park. The Pay Stations mean you can avoid the Parking App and QR Code Signs as long as you have a loonie in your pocket!

When you open the HotSpot app, chose your vehicle, enter the 4 digit zone number from a nearby sign (signs are up and down each block). The numbers are different for each block so be sure to use the correct one! Choose the amount of time you want to park. Be sure to push the "Park" button at the bottom of the page to activate the parking session. Once it is active a timer countdown will show. When you go about your downtown business or have lunch you can add more time to your session if you end up taking longer than expected. No more trying to rush back to save a dying meter! If you have time remaining, you can stop the active parking session and get a refund for any time still on the countdown.

Fast Tap Sign

The Fast Tap Sign is the option that cautions you to not use a QR Scanner app.

It is recommended that you use the camera on your phone to point at the

Fast Tap signs around the downtown area. It will connect you to the HotSpot website where you can enter your details. You will need to enter your license plate, the zone number and link payment information. You can choose the amount of time you want to park but parking initiated through a Fast Tap session cannot be extended or refunded. If you need more time you would have to return to the block you are parked on and scan one of the Fast Tap signs again.

If your camera on a smartphone is not recognizing the QR codes try downloading the Google Lens App. It will be safer than other apps and should be compatible with most Android and Apple phones - it worked on the ones we tested. Google Lens is an App in the Playstore Google line up of helpful apps. It does more than read QR codes but if you point it at one it will pop up some alternative text that you can click on to go where the QR code is directing you. For Apple Phones you will need to download the Google App which has several Google features in one app. The Google Lens is the little camera icon the yellow marker is pointing to below. Choose that and then point it to the QR code.

Android Google Lens App
Apple Google App

Other Tips

If you use one of the Pay Stations be sure that you know the license plate for the vehicle before making the trek over there so that you are prepared for the prompt and don't end up hiking back to take a picture of your plate! You can pay at the Pay Stations by either credit card or coins. The machine will spit out a receipt but you do not have to display it. The Pay Stations are so spread out that they are not very convenient for most people and they tend to be one of the biggest complaints. This method is the one that requires the most effort and will still have you digging for coins.

When using the either the app or tap option be sure to disconnect from any public wifi connections first. There is a good chance they are not secure. Use your phone data when dealing with sensitive information like payment options!

If you need assistance setting up or using the app we have heard that staff at City Hall have been very helpful. If you are coming to Absolute Computers to pick up or drop off your computer you can request our Parking Concierge Premium Set Up Service at no additional cost.

Helpful Computer Dude Icon

If you want to know what we get up to around here between Parking Tutorials check us out on Tik Tok & Facebook. Leave us a comment or a like or maybe even follow us. Who knows what could happen if we found you kicking around on one of our Social Media spots. :-)

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