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August 29, 2014

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Apps bring local government services to palm of your hand

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

New credit card-enabled parking meters being installed this summer in downtown Las Vegas have done away with the time-honored tradition of scrounging around the car for loose change. This fall, the city hopes to eliminate another time-sink for motorists — circling the block for an open parking space — with the introduction of a new smartphone app.

The app will tie into new multibay parking meters, which are being installed as part of a $1.4 million project, and use the data collected there to provide a real-time inventory of available city-owned spaces downtown.

Developed at no cost to the city through a partnership with California-based ParkMe, the app is the latest in a growing staple of tools local governments are producing to stay engaged with an increasingly mobile-savvy citizenry.

Whether it’s checking the time for a court hearing or reporting graffiti in your neighborhood, these apps make it faster and more convenient for users to report problems and get the info they need.

Information technology employees develop most of these apps in-house, although some cities have partnered with outside app developers to create their product.

Here’s a look at seven apps offered by government agencies for your smartphone:

    • The city of Las Vegas's smartphone app

      Las Vegas Mobile App

      The new parking app is still a few months away from being released, but the city has been offering tools to residents on their smartphones since the start of this year.

      The Las Vegas Mobile App’s map feature, which provides a static display of city parking spaces downtown, will be replaced by the upcoming ParkMe, but many other functions still will be useful.

      Residents can use the app, which is available only on iOS devices (Apple phones and tablets), to report problems they see, whether it’s a pothole or an out-of-service streetlight, using the phone’s GPS system or entering an address to alert crews in the field to the problem.

      The city is also leveraging its partnership with Code for America developers to work on several potential apps, including one that would provide a map showing the schedule for food trucks parked at designated spaces downtown.

    • The Contact Henderson smartphone app

      Contact Henderson

      One of the earliest apps released by a local government, Contact Henderson has been giving residents a way to report problems to their city since 2011.

      The app, available only for iOS, allows residents to send messages, complaints or requests to Henderson and then track the status of the response. Residents also can upload photos of graffiti or other nuisances they come across in the city.

      Henderson also offers two web-based mobile apps. One provides an interactive map of the city’s parks and trails that can be searched based on location or types of amenities. The other allows residents to schedule on-site building, fire or public works inspections. Those apps are available through the main Contact Henderson app, available at the App Store.

    • Clark County's MyDistrictD smartphone app

      MyDistrictD

      Introduced in 2010 by County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly as a tool for residents of his district, this app is available for iOS and Android devices.

      Residents in Weekly's district can use photos, text or audio messages to report green pools, illegal dumping, broken windows or any other nuisance in their neighborhood. The app has been downloaded by more than 2,000 people and generates about 30 complaints a month.

      The county is working to expand the use of MyDistrictD by bringing its nuisance-reporting functionality to all parts of the county. County spokesman Erik Pappa said one major focus of the app, which is targeted for release early next year, will be a tracking component to allow residents to know what action was taken to resolve their complaint.

      A second app under development would bring the website’s popular mapping tools to smartphones.

      Pappa said the county’s budget for web development is limited, and much of its resources are being invested in making the county’s website display better on smaller screens and simplifying popular online tools for easy use through a smartphone web browser.

    • The Courtfinder app developed by Clark County District Court

      Courtfinder

      An app released by the Regional Justice Center this year allows users to skip the long wait scanning the docket on large monitors in the lobby in favor of looking it up on their smartphone.

      Courthouse staff, at the suggestion of District Judge David Barker, developed Courtfinder, released in January for Android and iOS devices.

      It condenses each day’s docket into a searchable file that updates in real-time. Users can search cases by name, judge or attorney to find out the date, time and courtroom of a hearing.

      “Getting newly updated court schedule information out in a timely, easily accessible manner has been a long-standing challenge,” Chief District Judge Jennifer Togliatti said when the app was released. “By using the smartphone technology to get court schedules in users’ hands in real-time, District Court solves the issue.”

    • The VINEMobile app

      VINEMobile

      Funded through a federal grant, VINEMobile brings already existing technology for tracking the status of criminals to the smartphone level.

      VINE, which stands for Victim Information Notification Everyday, provides real-time notifications to victims of crime when an offender is transferred, released or escapes from imprisonment. It also provides updates to an offender’s parole or probation status.

      The app is managed by the state Attorney General’s Office and is available only to victims of crime already registered for updates. It includes information collected from police and corrections departments throughout the state.

    • The Regional Transportation Commission's mobile optimized homepage

      Ride Tracker

      The Regional Transportation Commission’s Ride Tracker, a web-based app, provides easy access to the RTC’s most popular tools, including the ability to plan trips and monitor bus schedules. It also allows users to check the agency’s network of highway cameras to check the flow of traffic and avoid jams.

      For those who’d rather not take the bus, the website also provides smartphone-friendly maps of local bicycle trails and routes.

    • McCarran Airport's partnership with Google Maps provides a detailed layout of the terminals.

      McCarran International Airport

      McCarran International Airport doesn’t offer its own standalone apps but instead partners with Google to add functionality to the company’s maps.

      Android users who search McCarran Airport on the Google Maps app will be able to get detailed maps of the airport terminals, including gate locations, restaurants and restrooms.

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    1. It will be nice when the City of Las Vegas learns that not all of us use Technology that has an apple on the front of it.

      If they make apps for one, they should be making them for the rest of us also.