Drivers who park on the street in both Minneapolis and St. Paul are increasingly bypassing pay stations and using their smartphones to feed the meter.

Nearly one in five motorists who park at meters in Minneapolis are using the city's parking app, which debuted last year and is now available at 7,800 on-street parking spaces controlled with meters. And that is well beyond expectations, said Mark Read, assistant parking manager for Minneapolis.

"We were looking for 10 to 15 percent," he said. "We've seen steady increase since we went citywide in October."

Not surprisingly, the highest usage occurred on the coldest days, Read said. Another pleasant surprise: an increase in revenue, although Read didn't specify how much.

With 18 percent of parkers using the pay-by-phone service, Read said Minneapolis is above the national average of 10 to 15 percent in other cities. He expects usage to peak at around 20 percent.

The number of parkers using a similar app in St. Paul is lower, at 5 percent, said city spokesman Joe Ellickson of the city's Public Works Department. But the capital city only unveiled its <URL destination="">PassportParking<PARAGRAPH style="Text_Body">cq/MN

"We expect that number to grow," he said.

The St. Paul app is available only in the downtown area with 1,600 spaces. But the service is expected to be expanded to the Capitol area by the end of May and citywide sometime this summer, he said.

Ellickson said it was too soon to tell if the pay-by-phone service has boosted revenue.

Both cities say there have been few problems with the service.

The MPLS Parking App can be downloaded free from the Apple Store, Google Play and the city's website. A driver simply signs in, plugs in the space number and the amount of time needed and enters a payment method.

Users of the app will pay 15 cents per transaction and 99 cents a month if they have signed up to be a member. Nonmembers pay 25 cents per transaction.

For parkers who fear they've stayed longer than their time, the app can send an e-mail notice when a meter is about to expire, allowing the driver to add more time remotely. Drivers can also get receipts to help keep track of parking expenses or submit them to their employer for reimbursement.

In St. Paul, the app can be downloaded free from the Apple Store or Google Play. Users have the option of making a one-time payment using a credit card, which will require an additional transaction fee of 15 cents, or pay using Passport's prepaid wallet without an additional fee. Adding a prepaid wallet to the account requires a minimum deposit of $10, which can be used to pay for parking.

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768