Apps a million…

Friend Michael from Albany reports that there is a story in the New York Times about apps that run on your iPod or Droid. Parking Apps that is. He says, “Keep an eye out for parking apps.”

OK, let’s discuss. It started in Australia where people could let others know when an enforcement officer was coming down the street so they could run out and put a quarter in the meter or move their car. There was quite a kerfuffle, but it seems to have died out. To work, people actually had to, in real time, report the location of the officer. And, of course, the longer from the report, the less value the app. Lately I read of one from Canada that allows you to report folks who shouldn’t be parking in Handicapped Parking Spaces.

The NY Times article reports on a couple of apps that provide interesting services. One is a GPS based system that logs where you left your car and allows you to input the time you must return so you can be reminded not only where your car is located (a great feature) but also when you had better be back to prevent a ticket. You can also take pictures of the area, I guess to help finding your errant ride.

Another app works similar to the Australian one, except that it requires folks to send an alert when they see or leave an empty space. That way others in the area can know that spaces are available. Same problem as the Aussies and even the author of the piece in the Old Gray Lady says he wouldn’t do it.

There is one that actually sends you to off street parking and compares prices. Good – but cept – it only works in NYC, Boston, and Seattle. My guess is that the apps creators are from Seattle and added NYC and Boston because pricing downtown is pretty high. It won’t be long until major firms like Google will have very complete listings of parking locations from all major cities and will sell that information to app manufacturers and the concept of finding the low priced parking will be fairly easy.

Finding immediate on street parking may be a different matter. To work, it requires in street sensors to provide, in real time, information about where parking is available. This feature is coming on line in SF and certain areas in LA. However it still has an operational issue. If the system shows a space available around the corner and I get there and someone has just taken it, I may, after a couple of goes like that, assume that the system really isn’t for me. After all, Shoupistas would say that the rate structure should be set so that a space or two are always available on each block space, and that people who don’t want to park there should quickly go to the nearest off street lot and pay less and park. No high tech equipment needed (except maybe the location of the nearest lot, that could be covered by good signage.)

I also rather like the concept of selling parking space in your driveway. Assume you have a driveway that holds two cars and you have no cars. Why not sell the space on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis? You set it up at a web site on line (these exist) and then when someone needs a space they use an app to go to the site, select your space, block it for a certain time, and pay. They can then park there. If they overstay you can have the car towed. You make money; they get a place to park. Capitalism at its best.

There is the ongoing issue of using a cell phone while you are driving, and if you pullover, aren’t you in a parking space anyway?

Give it a few years and with onboard GPS and computers this will all be automatic. You push a “find parking” button and there you go. I’m sure that many will have fun with the current apps, like the one I use to track my walks with Suki the wonder dog in the evening. We cover the same route each day and sure enough, the distance is the same. I check it and nod my head confirming my faith in technology. In the end, in a decade or so, I will wonder how we ever parked a car in any city without our app. In the meantime my guess is that most of us will just fumble along, sort of like the past 70 years.


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