Downtown Raleigh parking app in the works

Posted by Colin Campbell on July 16, 2014 

Finding a parking space downtown could soon be as easy as a tap on the old smartphone.

The Raleigh City Council agreed Tuesday to work on a downtown parking app, following a proposal from the guys who made a similar app for North Hills.

The council's technology and communications committee will take up the issue soon, but the Downtown Raleigh Alliance is already looking at the initiative. Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said the downtown group wants to form a public-private partnership to fund app development, and that the city could be asked to chip in a contribution.

"I feel like it could be a great solution to deal with some of the challenges of parking," Councilman Bonner Gaylord said.

Jim Belt - who heads Downtown Living Advocates and made Tuesday's pitch for the app - said visitors often have the perception that parking is a challenge downtown. But with 18 decks and plenty of on-street spaces, Raleigh has plenty of options to choose from, and a dozen of them are free on evenings and weekends.

The problem, Belt said, is connecting downtown visitors to the most convenient parking area for their destination - and helping them find their car when it's time to go home. "Parking decks have lots of different entrances, and a lot of people get confused," he said.

The app Belt's group put together for North Hills also has details and locations for shops and restaurants. That sort of resource could be valuable downtown, where the sheer number of dining options have become almost overwhelming. So far, the easiest-to-use list of restaurants and bars available is maintained by a local blogger.

Also on the wish list for a downtown app: up-to-date information on street closures and special events. Some would like details on when downtown decks drop their free weekend parking to charge a $5 "special event" rate - a practice that tends to infuriate people who thought they'd be parking for free.

It'll be a tall task to create an app that does all of the above while remaining simple and easy to use. Good thing downtown happens to be home to hundreds of software developers.

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