Redwood City's 245 downtown stores, restaurants, theaters, and businesses have been waiting for a rebound. The availability of parking is a good indicator of the pain caused by the pandemic. Demand for parking dropped by as much as 90%. It now stands at 50%.
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With a recovery on the horizon, the downtown district is installing new technology to make parking easier, especially on busy Friday and Saturday nights.
It's called Cleverciti. Installation is underway on a network of sensors mounted atop light poles that can identify empty space; not just the 400 ones on the street, but also in seven surface lots and 11 garages.
360-degree LED signs, mounted 20 feet up, display turn-by-turn directions where to find empty spaces and how many are available.
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"The real way to find a space is through data, and if you know for sure in which direction you have to turn and there will be parking spaces, you don't need to use just luck anymore," said Thomas Hohenacker, Cleverciti's CEO and president, who spoke to us from its headquarters in Munich, Germany.
It's the first system to be installed in the U.S. by the German company. Redwood City received bids from seven companies. While its downtown has 2700 city-owned parking spaces and access to 2,500 private ones at night and on weekends, drivers have complained it could take 15 to 30 minutes to find parking during pre-pandemic times.
"During weekends, it's pretty packed. Sometimes I have to go very far to basically find parking," said Redwood City shopper Chady Merono.
Cleverciti is projected to start operating this summer.
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"We're really focused on these three R's: respond, restore and reimagine. So as economic activity picks up in the coming months, this program is going to help support our businesses," said Jessica Manzi, Redwood City's senior transportation manager.
Downtown has lost some parking spaces with the creation of parklets for outdoor dining. The city hasn't decided yet what their future will be.
If the system lives up to promises to reduce search time by 45%, that will give people more time to shop or dine or to run errands faster, allowing others to grab an empty space.
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