Downtown parking to get some tech help ; Jacksonville trying new system with motorists using app to find a spot [Florida Times Union]
(Florida Times Union Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Downtown Jacksonville drivers might be about to get a little smarter.
The city is participating in a pilot program that will track vacant streetside parking spaces in the urban core, Mayor Alvin Brown announced Tuesday, with the data available on a smartphone app.
The testing phase of the program involves embedding 100 sensors in metered parking spots along Laura Street and part of three cross streets. Those sensors will let drivers know where empty spots are.
The initial part of the project isn't costing the city anything. If the pilot is successful - a decision that would be made over the summer - the city could expand it to part or all of downtown and pay a monthly fee to Streetline, the company installing the sensors and creating the app.
Streetline is a hot company in the field of using technology to help users interact with the real world, with installations in about 30 cities in North America. Earlier this year, it raised $25 million in a third round of venture funding.
While other companies gather information on parking garage vacancies or install sensors, Streetline is the only company the city found that built out the infrastructure and provided the back- end technology, said Jack Shad, the city's parking officer.
The company and city came together when Jacksonville started looking for a way not just to make parking easier for motorists but to also gather information that it could use to help work with merchants, landlords and others involved in downtown, Shad said. "It's hugely important to know and be able to analyze data that we can share with businesses downtown," he said.
Streetline aims at providing information to help both drivers and the city, said Zia Yusuf, chief executive officer of the company
"For the first time, policy makers can make informed decisions based on analytic information as opposed to conventional wisdom," he said.
Although the city has more than 1,600 metered spots downtown (as well as more than 40,000 garage and parking lot spots), a perceived difficulty in finding parking spots has long plagued the urban core, with visitors complaining that there's either nowhere to park or that spots are too far away from their destination. A third of downtown congestion is caused by drivers circling the area looking for parking spots, Yusuf said.
Helping motorists find spots more quickly is one way the city is planning to fight that perception, Brown said. "It's good for customer service, good for business," he said.Timothy Gibbons: (904) 359-4103
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