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Mayor Menino proposes parking spot locator app

For Boston drivers tired of circling and circling (and, circling again) while prowling for parking spots, there may be some relief in sight.

A plan being unveiled Wednesday as part of Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s proposed $2.6 million budget would use parking sensors and a smartphone app to alert drivers to the location of the closest available spot.

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The pilot program, which would cost about $250,000, aims to ease the parking headache by allowing real-time solutions, city officials said Tuesday.

Thomas J. Tinlin, the city’s transportation commissioner, said traffic studies have found that, at any time, 33 percent of vehicles are either searching for spaces or are illegally double parked while waiting for a space to become free.

“How cool would it be to be driving down Boylston Street and you know for a fact that you’re headed to an open parking spot a block away?” Tinlin asked.

Under the plan, sensors would be installed under the asphalt of 500 parking spots in heavily trafficked areas. The sensors would transmit a signal to the app telling it whether the spot is available.

Tinlin said the program is modeled on a similar system in San Francisco and the app includes hands-free capabilities to discourage distracted driving.

The parking sensors are one of many technological upgrades included in the 2014 city budget proposal, which also allots money for an iPad e-reading program for public libraries, bicycle helmet vending machines, and the city’s first all-digital school.

The school would be an expan­sion of the current credit-recovery program, which allows students who fall a few credits short of graduation to take web-based courses over the summer, said Lee McGuire, spokesman for the Boston public schools.

The proposal includes half a million dollars to expand the program to include up to 250 full-time online students and a full curriculum of courses as soon as this fall, pending approval by the School Committee.

“It’s a way of expanding the footprint of the district beyond the physical classroom, reaching students who may have left us,” McGuire said.

Many details have yet to be hammered out. Participating teachers would have to repurpose their classroom curriculum for online instruction and would be paid a stipend, McGuire said.

Those proposals are included in a fiscal 2014 budget plan that represents a 5.6 percent increase from the current year, one of the largest proposed budget increases in years.

Menino’s proposal relies heavily on property taxes and reserves to make up for the $139 million in new spending, the bulk of which is going to city schools.

The plan includes few spending increases for vital city departments such as police, fire, and emergency services, said Sam Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research ­Bureau, a budget watchdog group funded by businesses and nonprofits.

“On the surface, 5.6 percent looks like a healthy increase,” Tyler said. “But the factors of how it’s being spent shows that it is a tight budget for almost all of the most essential departments.”

Wesley Lowery can be reached at wesley.lowery@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter ­@WesleyLowery.
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