I don’t own a car, but I still care deeply about parking — or, rather, the ability of the people I mooch rides from to find it. So I think my chauffeurs will be pleased to hear about the Parker app by Streetline (free, for iPhone and Android, although the latter version is a bit buggy).
It has some valuable functions for anyone who gets behind the wheel, including a timer that reminds you when your meter’s about to expire and the option to pinpoint where you left your car so you can find it with GPS. In a multilevel garage? Follow the prompts and snap a photo of the floor number.
But for Washingtonians, the extra selling point is that Streetline’s partnered up with Metro to make it easier to ditch your ride at a station. Parker’s packed with info on every Metro lot and garage in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, so you’ll know what to expect in terms of hours, rates and payment methods.
Most niftily, for the Fort Totten station, the app can access data from a Metro pilot program that’s using sensors embedded in the pavement to monitor real-time availability in the “Kiss & Ride” lot. I just checked right now and can tell you that there are four spaces open.
Maybe that doesn’t seem like helpful information, but these sensors could wind up in more lots and garages to help commuters plan their journeys on the fly. “If they find out one station is full, they can bypass it,” says Kelly Schwager, Streetline’s vice president of communications.
This is the first time the company has used its technology for transit purposes. But it’s already in other urban areas, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. Say you’re looking for a spot in Hollywood, where the streets are lined with sensors. You simply search the screen for a block with available spots and drive straight there, potentially saving the time and gas normally wasted circling the neighborhood.
The other pilot program in our region is at the University of Maryland, which is Streetline’s first campus site. In addition to parking space info, UMd. is using the sensors in safety zones as a way to notify authorities when people are parked there illegally. Through the app, you can also keep track of which electric vehicle charging stations are in use.
Cities may soon be able to rely on this information to determine smarter meter pricing, regulate traffic patterns and shift municipal workers based on which areas are booming at various points in the day, Schwager explains. All of that sounds pretty useful to me, even if I’m not driving.