A pay-by-phone plan approved by the City Council Thursday will give Rogue Community College students another parking option.
The Medford Parking Commission received permission from the council to create premium parking on Central Avenue between Eighth and 10th streets and on Ninth Street between Central Avenue and Front Street.
Both Central and Ninth have one-hour parking. Under the new plan, a student or any motorist with a smartphone can add another hour through an application known as PayByPhone. The motorist's account would be charged $1 for the extra hour, but the first hour would remain free.
"I'd love to do that," said Laneasha Johnson, a 17-year-old RCC student who parked on Central Thursday while she took a class. "I'd rather do that than get a ticket."
Mark Millner, chairman of the Parking Commission, said he wants to test the idea on the two streets before expanding it to other streets in the downtown.
The city already allows charging more time in parking lots through cellphones using the PayByPhone application, so it's relatively easy to extend the program to street parking. Meter readers can verify whether a payment has been received by checking the license plate number.
Millner said the Parking Commission contacted local merchants and property owners to gauge their reaction.
"We got a unanimous thumbs-up on all that from all the other businesses," he said.
With the council approval, Millner said it's possible the program could get up and running within a month. Some extra signs will be installed but will be paid for mainly by PayByPhone.
The idea was developed out of concerns raised by RCC over parking.
The school recently announced it expected 460 students from a new health care program.
Margaret Bradford, marketing director for Rogue Community College, said the school appreciates efforts to ease the parking situation, but remained worried about the financial impact on students.
"I think that anything that makes it more convenient for our students is a plus," she said.
Bradford said that RCC generally has been disappointed that the city hasn't provided sufficient parking for students.
She said RCC was under the impression that parking wouldn't be a problem when the college first proposed locating its campus in downtown Medford.
A lot of students previously parked for free in a parking lot to the east of Bear Creek, but now are required to pay, Bradford said.
Many students struggle financially, so parking fees add up, she said.
"It's a hardship for them," she said.
Dr. Phil Michael, who teaches math and anatomy at RCC, said parking has been a big issue for everyone who goes to the college.
Michael, who also parked on Central Thursday, said he thought students would appreciate getting an extra hour on Central or Ninth even if it costs.
"I think it's a good idea," he said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email email@example.com.