Whether downtown Akron is a daily destination for a seasoned visitor or a once-in-awhile stop for an event-goer, finding a parking space can always be a trip in and of itself.
One can hope to find a meter for street parking or wander into a deck or lot, hoping that the fee is manageable. And more times than not it is, as this is not New York or Chicago.
But still, it would be nice to know where parking is available before circling Main, High and Broadway and the streets in between to make the outing a little more smooth.
"We have plenty of parking downtown, and it's really wonderful because it's free after 6 p.m. and on weekends in the parking decks, surface lots and at the meters," said Kimberly Beckett, director of business relations for the Downtown Akron Partnership (DAP). "And the first hour for parking in lots and garages is free. The mayor thought this was important to get people downtown."
And for those downtown outings that play out before 6 p.m. and need longer than one hour, there's the Parking Friend app.
About two years back, downtown Akron was "looking at more ways to get into the mobile market, and our regular [DAP] website wasn't very mobile friendly, with drop-down menus, etc.," Beckett said. "So we were able to develop a mobile platform that made it easier for people to find information about downtown with their mobile device, and we also launched the ParkingFriend app."
As most know, tekkies are hardcore when it comes to their preferred mobile applications, which explains the lines wrapping around Apple stores when it introduces yet another iPhone. And ParkingFriend addresses the non-followers of the late Steve Jobs because it is not only compatible with iOS (formerly iPhone Operating Systems) but Android as well.
And while many applications come with a fee, ParkingFriend does not, and users can download the free app. by visiting http://www.downtownakron.com/getting-around/parking-friend-app or visit the Apple and Android sites and search for Parking Friend Akron.
ParkingFriend allows users to map out their downtown destination, driving distance, the closest available parking decks and lots, along with their rates and whether valet service is available. Contact numbers are also given for these parking facilities, and a map of downtown Akron can also be viewed with public lots and garages designated with a "P."
"We're always encouraging people to check it out because in downtown there are a lot of great things happening, and a lot of positive change has happened in the last 15 years," Beckett says. "We've seen over a billion dollars in investment in downtown."
If there are any changes to these parking areas, such as closings, repairs, detours, DAP updates ParkingFriend users through its website and newsletter, Facebook and other social media.
For those not inclined to tap into an Android, iPhone, iPad or iPod, they can print a PDF version of a downtown parking map by clicking "Getting Around" on the DAP homepage at www.downtownakron.com or pick up a map at its offices at Greystone Hall, 103 S. High Street, 4th Floor, 330-374-7676.
Users of ParkingFriend are welcome to offer any suggestions or comments about the app. by calling 330-374-7618.
"Downtown is a great place and changing rapidly for the better, so getting feedback is important," Beckett encouraged. "Getting around downtown is not as scary as it sounds, so this is a great resource to have. And we'd love to help you."