By David Feehan

I recently had a meeting in downtown Rockville, Md. Google Maps could get me to my destination, but where would I park? There was a municipal parking garage listed on Google Maps, but the site offered no helpful information—where to enter, the hourly rate, whether the garage was permit-only, and what hours the facility was open.

I decided to look for parking on the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District website, because I also had a meeting in downtown D.C.. Sure enough, there is a search function, and searching for “parking” brings up a map with parking locations. Click on the location, and there is a button for “more information.” Click on that button … and I learned nothing about rates, hours, and availability.

When I talk with my colleagues who run downtown organizations, most have websites with parking information. Google “parking – downtown Pittsburgh,” and the parking authority provides a useful map with information on hours and rates. So the information a person needs is generally available online, if you know where to look.

Yet when I ask friends and colleagues, “When was the last time you went online to find a place to park before you went to a meeting, an event, a restaurant, or went shopping?” almost no one admits to doing so.

Where is the disconnect? People I know use Google Maps or other GPS apps frequently for directions. They use apps to pay for parking and to find restaurants or entertainment venues. But almost everyone I ask just gets in the car and figures they will find parking when they arrive at their destination; no one I talked to said they searched online before departing.

What can we do better? Better signage? Better online maps? Connecting Google Maps with parking more effectively? I don’t have any answers, but I do think it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. Perhaps ride sharing and autonomous vehicles will eventually solve this problem, but for the next several years, it may be worth the time for those of us in the parking industry to think about this.

David Feehan is president of Civitas Consultants, LLC.