If you work in downtown LA or you go there frequently for sports events, concerts or shopping, your parking experience just got easier.
On May 21, 2012, a one-year pilot program called LA Express Park™ was launched in downtown LA by LADOT. It uses real-time wireless technology to guide you to open parking spots. It also implements demand-based parking prices.
The goal of deploying this new technology is to reduce congestion and pollution by reducing the number of cars circling blocks looking for parking, helping drivers to quickly locate parking spaces and improving the experience of downtown customers.
The project covers a 4.5-square-mile area surrounded by the 10 and 110 Freeways, Alameda St and Adams Blvd. It impacts thousands of street metered spaces and off-street public parking spaces in city operated facilities (i.e., Pershing Square, Convention Center, Civic Center, and El Pueblo).
The LA Express Park system uses wireless sensors in parking spaces throughout the project area to track when cars come and go. This data is transmitted in real-time to the LADOT’s parking management system.
Information gathered from these sensors is also used to set parking rates that change based on demand and availability. The price goes up as spots diminish. This is an apparent effort by LADOT to encourage drivers to find alternate modes of transportation to the area (e.g., metro rail, carpooling, etc.).
Parking space occupancy data is transmitted drivers in multiple ways. The most notable being the electric signs throughout downtown that show the number of spaces available and the going rate.
In addition to the street signs, parking availability information is also available via smartphones (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android) and, hopefully with the support of the auto industry, in-vehicle navigation systems. Parking information is also available via the Go511 traveler information service.
The LA Express Park system really shines with the use of mobile applications. Currently there are two mobile apps that work with the system, Parker and Park Mobile. They both can be used to find and paying for parking spots. They also provide many other bells and whistles such as adding money to a meter for more time, voice guidance to lead you to an open spot – letting you keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road – reserving a parking space, printing payment receipts and tracking your parking history. The Parker app can even find your car – a nice feature if you’ve gotten lost or had one too many during happy hour.
All this technology is great but what about people without smartphones, computers or credit cards? If you don’t have a smartphone, you’ll still have the electronic street signs displaying information on available parking spaces. You can also access a web site on your computer that has the same tools available on smartphones and the mobile apps. Lastly, the hi-tech meters still accept coins.
Overall, I think this is a great use of technology. I hate driving downtown – one of the big reasons being parking. I’d much rather take the metro rail. That said this technology could definitely make the experience a lot less stressful. I doubt the LA Express Park’s demand pricing will encourage folks to take alternative transportation, but only time will tell.