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Downtown parking experiment will use GPS and adjustable pricing

By Hayley Fox
Published: Monday, May 21, 2012, at 02:01PM
Hayley Fox/blogdowntown

LA Express Park aims to help Downtown drivers locate available parking spots.

Downtown L.A. will be the testing ground for L.A. Express Park, a program that uses street sensors to help drivers find available parking spots and is being tested on 4.5 square miles of DTLA.

"New meters, new technology and flexible payment methods afford greater ease and convenience in parking and visiting our dynamic downtown," said Councilwoman Jan Perry.

If it's successful, city officials plan to implement similar programs in other neighborhoods.

The parking program will cover the area between the 10 and 110 freeways, and Alameda Street and Adams Boulevard. It will use in-ground sensors at L.A. city-owned parking lots and street spaces to inform drivers of where the closest available parking is.

Drivers can use the GPS on a smartphone, call the L.A. Express phone number or look to a changeable message sign on the street to find open spaces. This project will also change the way parking is priced: When demand is high, prices will go up; when demand drops, so will the parking rates.

City officials cited the recent growth of Downtown's population and the increasing influx of visitors as main reasons the neighborhood was chosen to be the testing zone.

"I think we can all agree that Downtown is once again becoming the heart and soul of L.A.," said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, referencing the recent bustling sports weekend that took place at Staples Center for NBA and NHL playoffs.

In addition to relieving downtown L.A. traffic and reducing the area's pollution, L.A. Express Park may even help DTLA drivers become less frustrated on the road, by eliminating the need to circle a block repeatedly in search of parking.

"While I don't know that frustration well now, in 14 months I'll know it very, very well," Villaraigosa said with a laugh.

Daryl Landis of the South Park Business Improvement District seconded the idea that by facilitating parking, the new program will alleviate traffic.

"A lot of the transportation clutter is as a result of people driving around looking for parking spots, looking for parking spaces and the availability of them," he said.

Although L.A. officials have been publicly championing the use of public transportation throughout the city, there's still a recognition that people will also continue to drive, said Landis.

"People in L.A. especially -- in Southern California -- they're in love with their vehicles and they're going to drive," he said.

The new parking program is being funded by $15 million in grants from the Federal Highway Administration and $3.5 million in matching City funds. It was developed over the course of a year through community discussions, technology consultants and with the ongoing partnership with Caltrans and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation.

L.A. Express Park is up-and-running now and available for use by the public. On June 4, the first evaluation will occur that could change city parking rates.

For more information or to see what parking is available near you, go to laexpresspark.org

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