Anybody heading downtown for a sporting event, theatrical performance or simply enjoy a night on the town invariably asks the question: Where do I park?

The City of St. Paul on Friday launched a new web app to provide an easy answer to that question.

"It's all the information you need in one stop," said project manager Mary Gleich-Matthews.

To search for a parking place, users can enter a venue's address or its name in a search box. After hitting the "Find Parking" button, an interactive map pops up displaying nearby parking ramps and meters. Click on the ramp or metered space of choice and information about rates, hours and contact information comes up. Users can set the distance on how far they want to walk to see more choices.

In a cool feature, the app allows users to reserve a parking spot in advance and get directions. From the web app, users can also download the city's Passport Parking App and use their cell phones to remotely pay for parking meters or extend time.

"If you are going to the Wild game, you can reserve your spot in the Xcel [Energy] Center ramp," Gleich-Matthews said.

There also are  tips, resources and rules for permit, disability, overnight, and holiday parking.

The app has information only for 67 parking lots and ramps in the downtown area. It is not available city wide, at least not yet, she said.

The parking app was developed after the city conducted a parking study last year. That revealed that downtown parking was at a premium and was the top concern of residents, employees and visitors, Gleich-Matthews said.

The study also found that parking ramps were under utilized and that some people did not know how to access them, said spokesman Joe Ellickson.

Now they can make "informed decisions," he said.

Ellickson suggested people bookmark the website to make it readily accessible

The app could get a lot of use in the next few weeks as thousands are expected to stream into the city for the St. Paul Winter Carnival, which runs Jan. 25 to Feb. 10, and, of course, from thousands of visitors attending the Super Bowl on Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis who may venture across the river.

"St. Paul is increasingly becoming an exciting destination, but it's a drag when people come and find themselves looking for parking. That's not how we want them to start their experience," said City Council Member Rebecca Noecker. "This brings us into the 21st century."

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