Here’s a new wrinkle in the digital cities world: a smart phone application that tells you where the empty parking spaces are and how much they cost. Santa Monica, Calif.-based ParkMe has introduced an app that lets users find the the best bets for parking on a block-by-block basis, throwing in a rate calculator, “in-app” route guidance and a timer for good measure.

ParkMe recently closed a deal with Colonial Parking in Washington, D.C., that will stream data from the parking company’s garages. It’s a coup for Colonial, as CEO Andrew Blair explains in an ITS International article: “Providing parking location and availability information to motorists for our 250 plus metropolitan locations will be a great benefit to our customers, building owners and motorists in general.”

“As more cities go online with respect to parking, it’s great to see Colonial, D.C.’s premier parking provider, coming into the fold,” Sam Friedman, co-founder and CEO of ParkMe, said. “Getting drivers to their spaces faster not only reduces frustration, it ameliorates the flow of traffic. This integration establishes Washington, D.C. and Colonial Parking as one of the most advanced cities in the nation when it comes to smart parking.”

As a bonus, convenient access to parking data should reduce urban congestion as drivers spend less time circling the block looking for a free street space or open garage.

Bacon’s bottom line: Imagine using this technology to provide drivers with real-time information about on-street parking not just for garages but city streets. Every municipality in the country ought to be jumping on this bandwagon!

Imagine linking this technology to time-of-day pricing for parking spaces that vary with supply and demand. Optimizing the use of parking space would have beneficial spillover effects. More efficient use of parking space would reduce the inventory of empty spaces, shrinking the need for garages and on-street parking. Superfluous garages could be converted to offices, apartments or retail space, while street parking could be converted to other uses such as, say, bicycles.

One more point: You want to spur downtown revitalization? The hassle and uncertainty of finding a convenient parking space is one of the biggest deterrents to suburbanites shopping, seeking recreation and doing business in central business districts. Downtown advocacy groups of every major city ought to be beating down ParkMe’s doors to sign up.

Update: Kevin Blomberg with ParkMe informs me that the company has just rolled out an on-street, real-time, meter feature in its hometown of Santa Monica and in downtown Los Angeles.


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One response to “Coming Up: Smart Parking”

  1. Now extend this even beyond this box to a company like Transurban providing value-added services to loyal toll customers or Tysons Corner peak-hour parking pricing – and availability!

    Imagine someone headed from Richmond to DC and setting up guaranteed parking en-route!

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