WASHINGTON - If battling traffic in the Washington metro area isn't frustrating enough, hunting for a place to park your car is sure to make you scream.
But a company called ParkMe is promising relief in the form of a free smartphone app.
The app itself is not new, but it's just been upgraded to include real-time parking information for more than 100 Colonial Parking locations around the area.
App users can find out if parking lots, garages and street parking areas in D.C. and parts of Maryland and Virginia have spaces for their cars. Once a destination is typed in, the app pulls up a map showing parking availability and parking garage costs.
"I can now know the closest, cheapest and available parking -- key word available -- in real time, and on the go so that I don't have to circle the block and I don't have to waste time or money," says Sam Friedman, chief executive officer and co-founder of ParkMe.
On the app, bubble-shaped icons point out each parking location.
"If it's green, that means you will be able to find a spot somewhere in the lot. It will turn red if [the garage] can no longer accept cars," Friedman says.
If the bubble is blue, it means the lot or garage is open, but there is no real- time parking spot information for it. If the bubble is gray, that means that particular parking location is closed.
In the center of each bubble, users will see the current parking rates for that particular location so they can compare prices.
Switch from "Lots and Garages" mode to "Street Parking" mode, and colored lines appear to point users to on-street parking.
Friedman says drivers should pull over before using the app, but plans are in the works for a voice-activated version.
"That's the next big step, is to really bring it into the navigation work flow," he says.
Friedman also is working with automakers to get ParkMe's extensive collection of parking data added to in-car navigation systems.
The app only provides real-time parking information in select cities, including Austin, Texas, San Francisco, Los Angeles and D.C.
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