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Downtown LA parking apps streamline the hunt for spaces, allow remote payments

May 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Finding a parking spot in downtown Los Angeles is getting a little easier thanks to a revolutionary new pilot program unveiled Monday. It uses the latest technology to guide drivers to the nearest empty space.

Driving in downtown L.A. looking for that elusive parking space is enough to drive you mad. But technology is about to change that.

"We made parking in L.A. easier, smarter and faster," said Amir Sedadi. Sedadi is Assistant General Manager for the Office of Parking Management, Planning and Regulations of the L.A. Dept. of Transportation.

"We're finally becoming the cutting-edge city that we've talked about for years," said L.A. City Councilwoman Jan Perry.

The city unveiled a new program Monday called LA Express Park. Using a free smartphone app called "Parker," drivers can see where spaces are available and how much they cost, from lots to garages to parking meters on the streets.

"This is showing us in downtown L.A. live right now, there's 2,297 spaces available in real time," said Sedadi.

"You go around the block blindly, looking for parking spaces. You take 45 seconds that it takes to access the app and you can find out exactly where the parking space is," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Paid for mostly with $15 million in grant money, the program is available in a 4.5-square-mile area of downtown. There will be thousands of high-tech parking meters, in-ground sensors and electronic signs telling drivers how many spaces are available.

"I think there's a lot of underutilized parking spaces, whether it's lots or even parking garages that are kind of hidden," said downtown resident Atif Siddiqi. "So I think it's a really good idea."

If you're in downtown L.A. and your lunch date runs late or a business meeting is going longer than expected, you don't have to run out to feed your meter. You can use a new app on your smartphone called "Parkmobile." It will let you know when your meter is about to expire and you can pay right from your phone.

"Before your time expires, about 10 minutes before you're going to get a text message on your cellphone, because your phone has been registered, that helps you avoid getting a ticket. You can either move your car or add more time as long as the posted time limit allows you," said Sedadi.

"I think that's probably a good idea. I've racked up plenty of tickets downtown with expired parking meters," said Siddiqi.

But the technology works both ways: Parking enforcement will also know when and where meters are expired.

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