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North Hills Monthly

Parking Apps Make it Easier to Secure Space Downtown

Nov 30, 2018 12:36PM ● By Jennifer Monahan

Love the magic of downtown shopping and dining, but hate to wander around in search of parking? There’s an app for that. Before braving holiday crowds and traffic, take a few minutes to download a parking app or two. They can save time, money and frustration, enabling holiday revelers to enjoy the sights and sounds of Pittsburgh with a little less stress.

ParkPGH is an initiative of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and provides real-time parking information for the Cultural District, North Shore and Central Business District. Updated every 30 seconds, the app lets users search by neighborhood to find open spaces. For example, a quick search confirms that at 1:41 p.m. on this Wednesday afternoon, the lot at 6th and Penn is full while 52 spots remain at 11 Stanwix. 

Click on any lot, and the app immediately displays an address, operating hours, maximum vehicle height, entrance location and rates. Users can view availability via a map or a list of parking options. The “directions” button activates Google maps, which provides step-by-step directions to the lot or garage. For accuracy and ease of use, ParkPGH is the best way to plan for parking downtown. (Free; available for iOS and Android).

Go Mobile PGH is the official app of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority. For simplicity and safety, this app is a winner. At a host of locations throughout downtown Pittsburgh, anyone with the Go Mobile PGH app can pay for parking via a smartphone. To set up an account, users enter a vehicle’s license plate number and state, as well as a method of payment (credit cards and Paypal are accepted). Parking facilities that partner with Go Mobile PGH have signs posted onsite. When they are ready to park, users simply enter the zone code listed on the sign and click a button to confirm. One nifty feature is that the app alerts customers when the allotted time is about to expire; parking time can be extended via the app—no more rushing out of a restaurant during dessert to add minutes to the parking meter! 

In addition to convenience, the app offers a huge boon for safety: users can pay for parking from the security of a car or building rather than pulling out a wallet to feed a meter or lingering outside the parking kiosk in an unpopulated area. Instructional videos for how to use the app are available both online and via the app; however, Go Mobile PGH is truly intuitive, and even first-time users are likely to figure it out without assistance. (Free; available for iOS and Android).

Parking Panda allows drivers to reserve parking ahead of time. It can be especially helpful when heading into the city for large events or sports games. Users search nearby parking garages to compare costs and distance from the venue before selecting a parking destination. The app lets customers book and pre-pay for a spot, then sends a confirmation for the driver to redeem onsite at the parking facility for a guaranteed parking space. 

Parking Panda receives mixed reviews from users in other cities. While some customers love the convenience and say they received better rates online than those posted onsite in the parking garage, others complain about glitchy error codes when they attempt to use the confirmation number to access the parking area. To be fair, the majority of complaints focus on the lots themselves rather than the Parking Panda app. 

Locally, Parking Panda has a relationship with the Alco Parking Corporation—which encompasses most major concert, event and sports venues and museums in downtown Pittsburgh. Presumably, those local lots are well-managed and Parking Panda merely provides a means to reserve and pay for space in advance. Anyone with concerns could skip the app and reserve a spot online via the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) Reserved Parking Program. Although there’s no app for that, the PDP offers a functional and informative website with detailed instructions for how to reserve a spot at http://downtownpittsburgh.com/pdp-reserved-parking-program  For those willing to give Parking Panda a try, the app is free and available for iOS and Android.

BestParking works in Pittsburgh and other major cities around the country. The app provides information about pricing and availability. In some cases, users can also reserve space ahead of time and receive a mobile parking pass to use upon arrival. Though BestParking is a helpful too when traveling, ParkPGH is still the app to beat for finding the best parking spots in Pittsburgh. (Free; available for iOS and Android).

If parking downtown still seems too stressful, there’s always Uber. Except you need the app for that.