New Parking App Maps Garages and Meters in San Francisco

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When the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which runs Muni and manages city parking policies, completed the first-ever count of all the publicly available parking spaces in San Francisco, the agency hoped software developers would use the data to create apps to reduce the delays to transit caused by drivers circling the block in search of parking. Through the SFPark pilot, the SFMTA intends to make it easier and clearer for drivers where available parking is located so they spend less time in traffic and less time creating traffic.

One of the first new iPhone apps to take advantage of this data was released this week in the iTunes Store and is called San Francisco Parking by developer by Nick Capizzani, a recent graduate from Purdue University who founded Mobile Parking Apps. The application maps publicly available parking garages and includes hourly rates, monthly and early bird rates where applicable, and general information about meter rates and street sweeping throughout the city.

The app also includes motorcycle meter rates by zone and a feature that queries Craigslist for parking-related ads, from private monthly garage offerings to people hoping to make a buck on game-day parking near AT&T Park. It also has a feature to help users find their cars after parking them and a timer that counts down the time remaining on a meter.

Though it isn't available currently, San Francisco Parking will soon have BART parking garage and lot information through a partnership with Parking Carma, which monitors real-time occupancy data at BART facilities.

SF_Parking_App_meters.jpgA screen grab that shows meter rates in downtown areas.
Capizzani's app is the first of its kind in San Francisco, but at least one other app, Primo Spot, provides similar information in New York City and Boston. The only other parking application on the San Francisco's Data SF site is Accessible Parking SF, which maps blue zone parking for people with disabilities placards.

Capizanni admits his focus is not the congestion reduction strategies in SFPark, but simply making it easier to find the space you want and to compare rates and discounts at various garages.

"I'm trying to find them the cheapest, quickest spot, to make it convenient for [drivers]," said Capizzani. "I wanted a centralized location where everyone could find out all their parking information"

Still, apps like this might have ancillary congestion reduction benefits.

The SFMTA's Jay Primus, Project Manager for SFPark, has said he expected a proliferation of apps and more information about parking supply would lead to "less circling for parking, less wasted fuel, and reduced greenhouse-gas emissions. It could help to save people both time and money."

At a minimum, San Francisco Parking will be well positioned to take advantage of the SFPark real-time data once it is released by the SFMTA later this year.