Category Archives: Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority

Interview with Douglas Perlin, author of a2parking Android application

This interview of Douglas Perlin, author of the a2parking Android application for locating Ann Arbor parking structures, was done via email. It is lightly edited to include hyperlinks.

  1. When did you get the idea to do an a2parking application, and how long did it take you to go from idea to first version?

In October or November 2011 I was looking at the a2dda website and happened to see the parking space availability on one of the pages. I thought it would be nice to have a phone app that could pull up the parking availability data.. It took about a week or two to get the first version up on google play. The original version was kind of clunky I used jsoup to extract the data from a2dda web page and wrote a little code to clean it up.

  1. How long has the software been out in the world?

The app was first published to google play on November 11, 2011. Sometime around the opening of the new Library Lane parking structure the data and web page disappeared. I guess a2dda or Republic Parking was upgrading the system. I guess sometime around August 2013 the data was made available through a JSON link but I wasn’t aware of it at that time. For some reason in early March of this year I was thinking about removing the spaces page since it was coming up blank and just leaving the navigation page. I logged into my Google app.things account and there was an email from Republic Parking informing me about the JSON data so I decided to upgrade the app and that’s what you see now.

  1. Who do you envision as using the system?

I guess I never really thought about it. Probably someone from out of town looking for directions to parking structure.

  1. Have you talked at all to the DDA or to Republic Parking?

I never talked to anyone at DDA or Republic Parking. I did send email to DDA from my regular email account to find out what happened to the data in when it disappeared. I got a quick response letting me know that the system was being upgraded. The thing that really surprised me was when my app.things account received and email from Republic Parking with the JSON link information since I never really wrote to them and my email to the DDA was from a different account. Not sure how they found out about the app.

  1. Is there more information you’d like to gather regarding parking data (e.g. pricing, trending of availability, historical or predictive numbers)?

The menu has an information screen choice which lists structures and lots and when one is tapped it will pull hours and pricing from the JSON link. I’m not really tracking the trends or making predictions.

  1. What’s your favorite parking place? Your favorite free place to park?

Hahaa! I’m a local. I’m pretty good at finding free places to park. That being said I prefer to take the bus and cabs when I come into town since its way cheaper than a DUI.

  1. Tell a little bit about yourself and how you got started programming.

I’m retired. I was a Network Administrator/Network Security Officer for many years. Programming is just a hobby and I’m pretty much of a hack at it since I don’t devote a lot of time to it. I started programming on an Apple II in basic. Then as time passed I moved on to more languages like Pascal, C, perl, and then Java. In the case of the parking app I just wanted to learn how to write a phone app.


“a2parking” app provides Android users with access to real time information about Ann Arbor parking structures

A2parking-icon“a2 parking” is an Android application that provides real time updates of available parking spaces in Ann Arbor parking structures. It is based on data published on the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority web site, and in addition to showing spaces free in structures it has one-touch access to directions to your favorite lot or structure.

Download from Google Play: a2 parking.

This has been a long time coming; an interview with Steve Smith of Republic Parking in 2008 described the basic outlines of this data.

Ann Arbor Library Lot exit problems on New Years Eve 2013

Kai Petainen writes that the downtown “Library Lot” parking structure so full on New Years Eve that when everyone went to leave it at once, the lines were so long that people’s paid tickets ran out of time. This caused additional delays of up to 45 minutes on exit and confusion as people had to turn around to re-pay.

I have heard of previous times where other unattended structures (notably Liberty Square) have had similar problems with the prepaid ticket system in busy events. I look forward to a postmortem on this at the next Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority board meeting, January 8, 2014 at noon.

Ann Arbor DDA, 4 December 2013, meeting notes

This is a lightly edited version of the notes I took at the Ann Arbor DDA meeting for 4 December 2013. The notes are a bit rough; they are notes, not a proper meeting report.

2013-12-04 12.04.35

New on the board: Steve Powers

Media in the audience: Dave Askins, Ann Arbor Chronicle; Andrew Cluley, WEMU; Ryan Stanton, Ann Arbor News.

Audience Participation

Main Street BIZ, Ellie Serras. January 28, coffee and pastries (9am, board meeting at 8am). BIZ not assessing December taxes; considering expanding boundaries of the current BIZ district. (No map provided of new district, and I don’t know how quickly this might happen).

624 Church Street, Brad Moore. Asking DDA to modify terms of leasing spaces for payment in lieu of parking. Currently allocated 48 spaces for 15 years. Financing company wants to see 2 10-year extensions added to agreement to make spaces available to let leasing agreement exceed minimum of financing agreement (30 years financing).

Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council, Ray Detter. Holiday party. Commitment to the survival of the State Theater. Short history of theaters in Ann Arbor; refers to State Theater, Michigan Theater area as “Theater District”. Owner of building is State Street Theater LLC.

Communications from DDA members.

Sandi Smith: new member introductions. Steve Powers, City Administrator. Cyndi Clark, Lily Grace Cosmetics / Lily Grace Spa.

Russ Collins: Michigan Theater board in communications with owners of State Theater building.

Minutes approved.

Motion to approve annual audit, which is done by Rehmann Robson, the same firm that does the City of Ann Arbor audit. Approved unanimously.

Motion to pay remainder of Main Street Light Pole Replacements, total of $280,000. Of which this is $120,000 from a State Street improvements fund left over from 10 years ago, $160,000 from 2015 TIF budget. Discussion of State Street improvements as well, need expressed by Susan Pollay to revisit light levels in that area. Noted by Russ Collins: Washington Street (south side) lights are off. Approved unanimously.

Old Y Lot: Substitute resolution re “Waive DDA Reimbursement”, not included in board packet. Substance: “The DDA hereby waives its interest in the net proceeds of $1,439,959 from the sale of the 350 S Fifth Avenue property.” “The DDA strongly recommends that City Council follow the DDA’s example to waive reimbursement to provide the maximum benefit for affordable housing in our community.” Noted that the lot just about breaks even on parking revenues vs. interest payments; $1.4 million figure mostly reflects demolition costs of Old Y as well as the costs of creating the parking lot. Goal of DDA to put maximum set aside for affordable housing in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Goal/promise to rebuild 100 beds in downtown area has not happened. Russ Collins asks about strategic planning for use of these funds. Sandi Smith: current fund is nearly depleted. Passes unanimously.

Interesting quote from previous discussion, here slightly but not much out of context: “We are told we are a shadow government” – Russ Collins.

New resolution, to address parking agreement brought up for 624 Church Street, not included in board packet. “The DDA recommends that the City extend the length of the parking contract for the 624 Church Street project with a term renewal of _ years.” Roger Hewitt reluctant to commit to a parking agreement for 30 years, perhaps past the length of the structure. Documents provided indicate that other developments have extended parking agreements, including Ashley Mews (20 yr), McKinley (20 yr), Village Green (20 yr + 4×5 yr extensions), Corner House Lofts (some perpetual, some 20 yr + negotiable renewal).

“Connector – Update”. Video presented. 3 alternatives studied: bus rapid transit, streetcars, light rail. “Today buses are overcrowded so we can’t just add more.” Project 50% increase in auto trips in 20 years. 3 public meetings held in November, input on route options. Study needs to be completed in Q1 2014, “preferred local option” alternative provided in next few months. Two locations considered, one for central campus, one near Blake Transit Center. Federal funding depends on “savings in travel time”. Cost as little as $100m, as much as $500m, about 1/2 from Federal funding (stand in line). Local match (50%) to include U of Michigan dollars. Don’t expect anything rolling in less than 10 years. “Very long process.”

“Bicycle Projects – Update”. Keith Orr. Bike Share (B-Cycle). No specific requests to DDA, still looking at sites for 14 locations, goal to launch on Earth Day. Maynard Bike House largely a commuting option, not always the same people. So successful that already looking at other locations for bike houses.

GetDowntown – More rides, more participating organizations, more cards sold and used, continuing to be more popular. Nancy Shore point of contact.

NHL Winter Classic – parking. Planning. The Puck Drops Here for New Year’s Eve. Parking strategy: NYE expecting everyone going home at the same time. Flat rate fee where there is congestion, 4/william and forest flat rate, don’t have to stop at cashier booth. Consider for other facilities. New Year’s Day: lot of reliance on buses. NHL asked to staff public garages to reserve parking space in advance, flagged in like Art Fair. “Ambassadors” to give you directions back to the garage. Specific map produced for the event. Republic Parking to provide labor. Charge for parking in structures and lots, $5 flat fee. Not meant to be an excessive amount. No projected numbers for parking demand is available. Urging mass transit as a way to get to and from the venue. Lawn parking will be allowed in the neighborhoods. Not likely to have as many locals as out of towners.

Downtown ambassador program. Roger Hewitt. “A number of views expressed.” Most people thought it was a good idea, should “aggressively pursue it”. Would like to see something in place for the summer. Learn from Grand Rapids experience. Not sure how much it’s going to cost.

Chamber Impact conference report, report from Joan Lowenstein. Refer to prosperity, not unemployment. Michigan and Ann Arbor “lagging behind” Madison e.g. in attracting young professionals. Suggestions: transit, private sector growth, density. Attracting young professionals leads to attracting families (people settle down where they get their 1st job). “The nature of the media and social media you can get trashed just by putting yourself out in public.”

Communication: Al McWilliams, Rishi Narayan.

2014 Calendar: propose to move 1/1 DDA meeting to 1/8, Partnerships move from 1/8 to 1/15. Otherwise calendar is the same.

Public comment: I talked about the need for pedestrian safety in the downtown area, based on observation that there’s a density of car-pedestrian crashes downtown and on campus.

Ann Arbor DDA has a new web site, and real time parking information is available again

The Ann Arbor DDA has launched a new web site, and one of the features of it is a map with information available in real time about parking availability at various structures.

The structures are in a shade of pale blue, and the lots are in pale green; my current location is marked with a bubble.

If you're looking for just space available information, there's a JSON file with that data; you'll have to unpack it to map structures to their ID numbers. I don't know how stable the URL for that data will be ( over time.

As always, if you're going to be fetching a file as part of an application you are building, and you fetch it repeatedly, please cache the data for a reasonable time and use common sense not to surprise anyone with what you are doing.

Public hearing December 7, 2011 to discuss increase of hourly parking rates in Ann Arbor

Notice of Public Hearing

Under Paragraph 8 of the City/DDA Parking Agreement, the public must be provided with an opportunity to speak at a public hearing before changes are made to hourly parking meter rates. A public hearing has been scheduled to elicit feedback on a proposed change to increase the hourly parking meter rate $0.10/hour, from $1.40/hour to $1.50/hour in September 2012.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at 12 noon

Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority Office

150 S. Fifth Avenue, Third Floor Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Typepad on iPad, edited elsewhere

No support for rich text editing in safari, but otherwise performant. Kind of nice.

I’ll need to really learn markdown for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that it descends from setext.

Ann Arbor

A2B3 lunch is Thursday as always.
Ann Arbor Parks did trick or treat today, Sunday, noon to 4pm on the Huron River.

Arborwiki makes a good companion as you go for errands around town.
Ann Arbor City Council elections and a millage are coming up. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has characteristically thorough coverage of the League of Women Voters forums.
Some project, not yet identified, has North Main torn up at Catherine. A second project has North Division down to a single lane. Expect delays.

No one was hurt in last week's fire on Harpst.
I'm trying a neighborhood LinkedIn group to see what kind of density I need to get enough people to make a group worthwhile; it might make sense to grab people closest first and then out by distance.

Metro Detroit

Tigers lost in the ALCS, and I’m looking forward to spring training.

Power outages from the Saturday windstorms were worst in Warren.


Occupy Chicago has had a lot of protest, via the Chicago Tribune which was on the scene.

Occupy Wall Street took over Times Square.


I am tracking steps with a pedometer again, thanks to Paul Resnick and a research group at UMSI.
Statler and Waldorf have taken over the Muppets twitter account. New movie due for Thanksgiving. Cue the Muppets.


The wind on Saturday made farmers market blustery. Squash of all sizes and varieties were there, and there’s nothing like a big old Hubbard squash to keep the corner of a table down. A farmer was doing the frost dance but said they had none at the last full moon. Traditionally, it’s said that the best way to open a Hubbard is to take an axe to it, or to throw it down into the cellar.


It’s hard to have great weird ideas when you are closing trouble tickets.
My new employer Nutshell has an office where my former employer Pure Visibility used to have it's offices.


Steve Jobs, Dennis Ritchie, Einar Steffrud.


Books moved recently include Kawabata’s, Snow Country, to be shelved on the Heikki Lunta shelf to prepare me for winter.


Pinboard now supports Gopher urls in bookmarks.


Michigan football lost to State. It was as good an excuse as any to call my aunt who went to East Lansing.


Wow, I have a lot of categories.