FLINT, MI– Prepare for easier parking in downtown Flint.

New parking meters have been popping up around downtown for a few months. They’re part of the Flint AutoPark, an automated, metered parking system that launched Tuesday, Sept. 24, according to a press release from Flint’s Downtown Development Authority.

The meters are easier to use and can be accessed using a free mobile application that allows people to check their meter time and pay for more time. This affords people more opportunities to avoid parking tickets, according to the press release.

Each parking spot is numbered and includes a lighted marker. Users can pay at the new meters by entering their spot number and paying either by credit card, depositing change or using the Sentry Mobile app. Overdue drivers can use the mobile app or return to the meter to pay for excess time in order to avoid a $25 parking ticket.

The meters automatically allows up to five minutes of free parking to accommodate drop-off and pick-up situations. Costs and paid parking hours remain unchanged.

“We wanted to create a parking system that uses modern technology to create the best possible visitor experience,” said Gerard Burnash, executive director of the Flint Downtown Development Authority.

Flint’s former parking system was installed seven years ago, according to the press release. The old parking kiosks are now covered up and will be removed in the next few days.

“With the old kiosks due for an expensive software update and incurring significant day-to-day maintenance costs, the time is right to switch to Flint AutoPark,” Burnash said.

There will be larger grace periods and warning over the first 30 days to accommodate users to the new system, according to the press release. Parking ambassadors will be on the streets to assist usage. It’s uncertain how many parking ambassadors there are or where they will be stationed.

The meters have interactive screens. A single meter serves multiple parking spots. The operating system is interconnected so users can add time to any meter, not just the meter nearest to where they parked.

The meters offer English, Spanish or Portuguese language options, on-the-spot video tutorials and will provide ambient light along the downtown corridor at night.

People frequently parking downtown will soon be able to use the Sentry Mobile app’s concierge service which allows users to pre-pay for parking so a meter visit isn’t required. The payments for the time used will be automatically deducted from the frequent user’s pre-paid account.

Flint is the first community in the state of Michigan to install this new technology through Municipal Parking Services, one of the nation’s leading suppliers of smart parking technology.

The new system is being leased, with no cost to Flint, for associated hardware, software, repairs, maintenance, or future updates. Revenue generated by Flint AutoPark will be shared by the DDA and vendor.

Downtown street parking costs $1 hour with a two-hour maximum between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Street parking is free at all other times. Tickets will be mailed to violators based on license plate information. Metered parking is only on downtown Flint’s busiest streets: South Saginaw, Harrison and Beach streets.