Parking app

A phone app offers Park City mall shoppers the ability to check on parking availability in real time.

You’re driving slowly past rows of parked cars, your head on a swivel.

Look! An empty space!

But no, a motorcycle is tucked in there.

Arrrggghhh.

Nothing sours the experience of holiday shopping faster than a futile search for parking.

But this holiday season, Park City Center is again using digital technology to lessen your frustration.

The system, described last year as the first in the retail industry, uses heat maps and GPS data to identify which parking lots are full and which aren’t.

The system provides a map of Park City’s stores and parking lots, viewable on smartphones or other mobile devices via a free app (search GGP Malls) or via the Park City website, parkcitycenter.com.

The map is color-coded. Red means a lot is full or nearly so. Yellow means it’s somewhat full. Green means it’s largely empty.

The app can also be used to find unfamiliar stores at Park City, the county’s largest shopping center with about 160 stores and restaurants.

The system, which went live at Park City in October 2016, was the idea of mall owner General Growth Properties.

“We want to help make the customer’s experience smooth, and their experience starts before they walk in the door,” Rachel Gallagher, Park City general manager, said last year.

Gallagher said the system stems from research done by GGP “across its portfolio” of 126 malls.

Research found, not surprisingly, that tight parking during peak shopping seasons can be a “pain point” for shoppers.

“Nobody wants to drive up and down the aisles looking for a parking spot,” said Gallagher. “So if we can help them find a spot, that makes their experience more positive.”

Might a driver be more likely to get into a parking lot fender-bender because the driver is glancing at a  smartphone?

“You can look at it ahead of time,” Gallagher replied.

Park City is not the only GGP property with the system.

GGP rolled out the system at 93 of its malls last year after testing was done at malls in Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis and suburban Chicago that summer.

GGP declined to disclose the cost of the system.

The system was developed by INRIX, which calls itself a leading provider of on- and off-street parking information.

Among the users of the Kirkland, Washington, company’s systems and data are automakers, transportation agencies, technology companies and drivers.