From construction cranes to new restaurants to public art, downtown Pittsburgh is hopping these days. The energy level is really exciting, and the Bayer Center is happy to be in the center of it all on Sixth Avenue. One side effect of all this downtown activity, though, is that parking gets trickier and trickier. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. And a nonprofit made it!
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust launched ParkPgh in December 2010 to provide free real-time information about availability of parking spaces in garages in the cultural district. Since then, it has expanded to other parts of downtown and on the North Shore.
The system – which covers 14,000 downtown and North Shore spaces – gets updates every minute from Alco Parking and Pittsburgh Parking Authority garages. Those updates are pushed out from the Cultural Trust’s server 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A red, yellow and green scheme makes it easy to see at a glance which garages are full, near full or have plenty of spaces. The app gives even more detail, however, by listing the number of available spaces in each garage.
Although it gets 200,000 users, making a million garage lookups per year in its fourth year of existence, not everyone knows about ParkPgh yet. The Benter Foundation supported development of the tool based on a personal experience; the president of the foundation’s board, Bill Benter, found himself circling downtown looking for parking when he wanted to get to the theater on time. The Trust partnered with Pittsburgh powerhouse DeepLocal to develop the app and maintains the app with contributions from donors.
No smart phone, no problem! ParkPgh makes this valuable information available in multiple ways:
- a desktop web site (parkpgh.org)
- an app for Apple iOS devices
- a mobile-friendly web site (parkpgh.org/mobile)
- via SMS text messages – Text ‘PARKING’ to 412-423-8980
- voice – call 412-423-8980
Local and national groups have taken notice. In 2011, ParkPGH was named App of the Year by readers of Pittsburgh Magazine and was given the Smart Solutions Spotlight Award by the Intelligent Transportation Society of America. Marc Fleming, VP of Marketing at the Trust says that in addition to Pittsburghers asking for more garages and neighborhoods to be covered, other cities have inquired about how they can get this kind of real-time parking information. In fact, despite a long career in the arts, it’s striking to Fleming how much ParkPGH has pleased the trust’s crowds.
“I’ve been in the arts for years; people are excited about Jersey Boys or some other show or the rubber duck – tons of people loved the duck – but they are thrilled with our work with parking. I know more about parking than I ever expected to in my lifetime. Someone from outside our organization might ask why we’re involved in parking, but it’s a natural extension of what the Trust does in terms of developing the area, making it a cultural mecca…it just makes sense to make it easier for our patrons to find a place to park.”
– Marc Fleming, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
“Fleming points out that as a nonprofit, the Trust doesn’t have a huge marketing budget for ParkPGH, but they spread the word as much as possible and welcome people in the know getting the word out.
When asked about how ParkPGH might be enhanced in the future, Fleming mentioned the possibility of display boards around downtown that could guide drivers to the best place to park without requiring looking down at a phone or making a call.
Next time you’re coming downtown for a Bayer Center event, a cultural event, a Pirates game or the Furry Convention, check out ParkPgh before leaving home or have your passenger check it en route (safety first!). And if you appreciate the service, support it at http://trustarts.org/support.”
– Jeff Forster, Bayer Center