New real-time app aims to help drivers in DC find parking in Chinatown and Penn Quarter

Parking in Washington D.C. could get a little easier as the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is turning to technology to help drivers find available parking.

Finding a parking spot in the nation's capital can be frustrating and can wear on people's patience. DDOT said their new parkDC mobile app can help.

"Studies have shown that 25 percent of the congestion in downtown is because of people circling around the block trying to find an open parking spot," said Soumya Dey, the associate director of traffic operations and safety for DDOT.

The app launched this week, and for now, covers the Chinatown and Penn Quarter neighborhoods. It will help drivers find the closest and cheapest spots with the help of supply and demand.

"Historically, we have seen that there are some spaces that are used more than others and they are in higher demand and there are some spaces in the study area that are not utilized as much," said Dey. "By incentivizing people to use the lower used areas by reducing the prices and by encouraging turnover on high-demand areas or high-demand spaces or blocks by increasing prices."

Here is how parkDC works. You type in your destination address and the app will show you where you are most likely to find parking nearby. Green means the probability is high while red means don't waste your time.

The app also displays an hourly price - anywhere from $2 to $2.75 depending on how often the spot is used.

The app uses data from existing parking meters as well as sensors in the ground to locate open spots.

City officials hope it helps take some of the pain out of parking by allowing drivers to plan ahead.

"It's got congestion benefits, it's got environmental benefits, it's got safety benefits because people that are looking for a parking spot, they are distracted drivers," Dey said.

The app does have disclaimers in it that promote safe driving. Drivers are encouraged to enter their information ahead or time or get their passenger to help.

The pilot program for the Penn Quarter-Chinatown area bordered by E Street and H Street between 3rd Street and 11th Street in Northwest D.C. runs until the end of 2017. DDOT hopes to expand it based on the data they collect.

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