Real-time parking conditions go mobile

The Cultural District is running a pilot for parking availability

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Motorists heading to shows and concerts Downtown soon will be able to use portable electronic devices to get real-time reports on available parking spaces in the Cultural District.

The pilot program, which could begin next month, will give updates every couple of minutes on space availability in at least nine garages -- five operated by Alco Parking Corp. and four operated by the Pittsburgh Parking Authority. Price information will be provided, too.

Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is spearheading the program, to be called ParkPgh.

"There's always a lot of uncertainty for people when they're driving to Downtown," especially when Cultural District events overlap with baseball or football games on the North Shore, Alco Parking President Merrill Stable said. ParkPgh should make life easier, he said.

If the pilot is successful, Mr. Stabile and parking authority officials said, the program may be expanded to parking facilities outside the Cultural District.

Authority officials said the website could be a source of ad revenue and also be used to direct motorists to parking near restaurants and other attractions.

The ParkPgh website, which isn't yet live, uses color-coded symbols to tell users about availability in participating garages, Red means "near capacity," yellow "approaching capacity" and green "availability." By clicking on the link for each garage, users see the number of spaces available and the price information.

It's all a good start, Mr. Stabile said, but he's looking forward to the time when a motorist also can pay for a space remotely and "have it waiting for you" on arrival.

Cultural Trust spokeswoman Veronica Corpuz said ParkPgh is slated to launch in mid-December but declined further comment Thursday.

"We're not quite ready to announce that project," she said.

Lucinda Beattie, vice president of transportation and parking for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, said ParkPgh should ease congestion caused by motorists who drive around looking for a parking space. Mr. Stabile said, "Even the environmentalists love it because it's somebody driving around the block a few less times."

Other cities already provide real-time parking availability.

The Naperville, Ill., website lists the number of available spaces at two garages. For one of them, it lists the number of spaces available on each level. The information is updated every 30 seconds.

A Santa Monica, Calif., Web site offers real-time space availability for 17 parking garages and beach parking lots. The website also provides the hours of operation and prices for each facility. Users can zoom in for a close-up look at each site and nearby streets.

Mr. Stabile said the Pittsburgh project has been in the works at least since spring.

He said Alco has invested $20,000 to the venture, and the parking authority board voted Thursday to spend about $9,000. Mr. Stabile said the Cultural Trust also has received financial assistance from the city's foundation community.

Assistance also has come from the Benter Foundation; Deeplocal, an East Liberty software development firm; and Traffic21, Carnegie Mellon University's transportation-improvement initiative supported by the Hillman Foundation.

Joe Smydo: or 412-263-1548.


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