ParkMe mobile app helps drivers find available parking

Just as GPS tracking and smart phones have made navigation simple, that same technology could soon help drivers quickly and easily find available parking.

Colonial Parking says it's the largest garage and lot operator in the D.C. metro area, with more than 100 of its facilities mapped out on the new ParkMe mobile app.

Staff regularly upload the status of each facility. In turn, drivers can browse the location, pricing and occupancy in real time.

“If the very closest one to you is full you might want to walk another block to save a couple dollars at another lot,” says Colonial Parking President and CEO Andrew Blair. “So I think it's all gonna be about the balance of price and convenience.”

Developers say there's also an environmental benefit, reducing the number of cars endlessly circling the block - especially tourists.

“It would certainly make things a lot easier,” says tourist Rebecca Meredith. ”And then you could just look before you go or pull over right when you get into a city and then you wouldn't have to drive around for a half hour trying to find something.”

The private sector is leading this effort. But local government is not far behind.

In Chinatown and Penn Quarter, a federally funded DDOT pilot program will soon place sensors on metered parking spaces.

Using that data, a future DDOT mobile app could help drivers find open spaces.

But the district government also plans to use that data to encourage parking turn-over by fluctuating meter pricing when fewer spaces are available.