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Parking app helps motorists find a vacant campus spot

If you want to improve your parking experience on campus, now is a good time to try out an app while lots are less congested during the holidays.

Mike Harris, director of parking and transportation at the University of Mississippi, said his office is encouraging students, staff, residents and even visitors to check out the app “Parker” that’s put out by the company Streetline.

He said it’s a free download whether you have an Android or an iPhone, and it will tell you where parking is available throughout campus.

“As far as we’re concerned, it is being used and actually being used more,” he said. “We do hear people talking about it, and we do want to communicate we want people to use it.”

This past semester Harris said the app had 2,177 individual hits on campus with more than 300 unique users.

The app actually is used nationwide, particularly in larger cities like Atlanta and New York City, to help people find parking.

“It takes the GPS on your phone and shows you available parking nearby,” Harris said. “It shows actual parking, meters, garages and the costs.”

Harris said all of the commuter lots are posted on the app, so when you pull it open on your phone, it maps out the lots and the color posted lets you know if there are spots open or not.

“It shows you a round symbol with the capital P in it,” he said. “If it is red, the lot is full, and do not go into that location. If it is blue, that means there would be some parking in there, normally in the 40 to 50 percent range. If it is green, it is pretty much wide open.”

Harris said the parking department monitors the lots and feeds information to the app.

“One way is we have cameras,” he said. “We monitor them and make adjustments in our website that downloads to the app. Also, parking officers are assigned lots and radio back availability.”

To get even more accuracy, Harris said the department is looking into adding actual counters that monitor when vehicles come in and out of the lots.

“We are starting to implement this now,” he said. “Our first foray into that is on Old Taylor Road. It gets more specific, as opposed to colors. Eventually, you’ll be able to look at a lot and know there’s 25 or 50 spots in there.”

Harris said the auto count system is going to be a multi-year project with the first effort in the lot on Old Taylor tackled in the spring.

“We have it ordered and have some of the equipment here and will install it in the spring, and it will be up and running by fall,” he said. “Numbers will automatically feed into our software system and we’ll be able to give real-time data.”

He said in addition to helping motorists, the new system will “start to generate reports for us so we can get a clear vision of how the lots are being utilized.”