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Mt. Lebanon business district, drivers both profit from free, new parking app

| Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014, 10:54 p.m.
Streetline's free Parker app shows available parking spaces along Washington Boulevard in Mt. Lebanon on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Mt. Lebanon has partnered with Streetline's free Parker app, which is available for iPhone and Android.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
Streetline's free Parker app shows available parking spaces along Washington Boulevard in Mt. Lebanon on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Mt. Lebanon has partnered with Streetline's free Parker app, which is available for iPhone and Android.
Kelly Becker of Mount Oliver uses a parking meter along Washington Boulevard in Mount Lebanon Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014.  Mount Lebanon has partnered with Streetline's free Parker app, currently available for iPhone and Android. The app enables users to find available parking spaces with their smartphones.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
Kelly Becker of Mount Oliver uses a parking meter along Washington Boulevard in Mount Lebanon Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Mount Lebanon has partnered with Streetline's free Parker app, currently available for iPhone and Android. The app enables users to find available parking spaces with their smartphones.
Streetline's free Parker app shows available parking spaces along Washington Boulevard in Mount Lebanon Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014.  Mount Lebanon has partnered with Streetline's free Parker app, currently available for iPhone and Android.
Jasmine Goldband | Trib Total Media
Streetline's free Parker app shows available parking spaces along Washington Boulevard in Mount Lebanon Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014. Mount Lebanon has partnered with Streetline's free Parker app, currently available for iPhone and Android.

Voice guidance and GPS can guide drivers to parking spaces in Mt. Lebanon's Uptown business district, thanks to a trial partnership with a California app-maker.

But the data showing which spaces are occupied also can help the municipality target parking scofflaws.

Using sensors embedded in the pavement of 97 parking spots along Washington Road, some side streets and the South Parking Lot, the “Parker” app from Foster City-based Streetline points to open spaces, said Nick Schalles, Mt. Lebanon's manager of information technology. The municipality started a six-month trial of the service last week.

“It's notoriously difficult to get parking here,” said Len Spagnolo, 56, a Bethel Park resident who works in Mt. Lebanon. “I don't use apps, but I think it's a great idea for people who do.”

“It's a step in the right direction,” said Derek Podolak, 41, of South Park. “Our lives are moving more and more onto these smartphones.”

In the app, a map shows how many spaces are available block by block, using icons for four-plus, two-plus or fewer than two. Parker has a voice feature, for someone using it while driving, and it can switch to the phone's navigation app for turn-by-turn directions.

“We're always looking for innovative ways to deal with the perception that there's a lack of parking Uptown,” said Eric Milliron, the municipality's commercial districts manager.

On the flip side, the system can communicate with Mt. Lebanon's digital parking meters and show municipal employees which occupied spaces are unpaid or expired, Schalles said.

Parking enforcement personnel will have to visit meters, to make sure there aren't problems such as a broken meter, before issuing tickets. But the system could point them to problem areas, said Mark Quealy, parking enforcement supervisor.

“It's just a little bit of guided enforcement,” he said. “The goal of the program is mainly for the end users' convenience.”

“I'd call that a complete revenue game,” said resident James Kayser, 51. “It's one thing to tell you there's an open spot; it's another thing to tell the meter maid the minute you can get a ticket.”

Mt. Lebanon paid about $25,000 for the puck-like sensors that Streetline installed in the parking spaces, and its cost for running the meters likely will rise slightly because information must flow back and forth to show which meters are paid, Schalles said.

Quealy said other cities using the app found increased enforcement balanced out administrative costs. Mt. Lebanon doesn't plan to raise parking rates or fines, he said.

Parker is available free in Apple and Android app stores.

Businesses can get free access to Parker data, in a map they can post on websites, but Lebo Subs owner Mike Crupi questioned how useful it is, given how quickly spaces fill.

“I could be sitting at a red light with an open spot in the block ahead of me, but by the time the light's changed, it's gone,” he said. Parking on Washington Road is so bad, he rents a space behind his building for customers picking up orders.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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