Parking Panda Looks to Ease Downtown Parking

Finding parking in downtown Columbus definitely wouldn’t top anyone’s list of things that are fun or easy. Baltimore-based Parking Panda recently entered the Columbus market with their app and online platform designed to make the task a bit less of a headache.

Parking Panda compiles information from garages, lots and valet services into an interactive map that shows those hunting for a parking spot real-time availability. The app provides pricing, as well as a number of time filters for parkers. It’s meant to be used on-the-go (both iOS and Android apps are available), but Parking Panda sees their biggest market as those looking to reserve spots in advance, especially for big events.

“Parking’s biggest detriment is congestion and traffic,” says Partner Account Manager Bryan Lozano. People often circle, and sometimes very slowly at that, trying to find parking. With Parking Panda, options are clearly outlined, and people can reserve parking in advance, allowing them to head straight to a lot.

The goal is to make parking seamless and convenient. A user picks out the spot in-app, pays with a credit card, then receives an email with a parking pass and directions to the lot. While Parking Panda works with each lot and garage to create a best process, generally,  “When you reserve it you will get a parking pass and you essentially show that parking pass through your smartphone to the operator,” says Lozano.

Parking Panda was born out of a startup weekend in Baltimore in 2011 and has since helped drivers in over 40 cities find parking. With most lots and garages owned by local companies or national chains, “We don’t really go into a city until we have the right partners,” Lozano says.

The organization decided to expand to Columbus after finding a number of partners willing to work with them. Parking Panda in Columbus currently lists 27 locations with an estimated 2,500 spaces for daily and event parking, mostly in the downtown area.

After their local launch in August, the app partnered with the Columbus Marathon to provide parking solutions, selling out four to five garages near the start and finish line.

The partnership represents Parking Panda’s advantage when it comes to events. Once parking space is sold out for an event, it’s sold out, but reserving a spot means avoiding last-minute circling.

Lozano calls the reception in Columbus positive so far but, “I think we can definitely grow.” Parking Panda is actively seeking more partners in Columbus and to work with other big events and sporting teams to provide parking solutions. They are also hoping to expanding into new neighborhoods. Time will tell if it could be a solution for other parking hot-spots like Short North.

Along with providing information on parking, the app also provides links to local venues, points of interest and hotels. Clicking on a venue also reveals a schedule of upcoming events for which one can reserve parking.

“The way our website works makes parking as easy as possible for drivers by categorizing different destinations,” Lozano says. “We’re sort of an all encompassing platform.”

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