Smartphone apps put parking spots at your fingertips

Author: Emma Beck

A growing number of drivers are turning to a high-tech solution for a low-tech problem — finding a parking spot in the nation’s congested cities.

From Pittsburgh to Los Angeles — and dozens of cities in between — mobile applications are becoming available to ease drivers’ search for a place to park.

The problem doesn’t always stem from too few spots, but from not enough information about where to find available parking, said Kelly Schwager, the chief marketing officer for Streetline, a smart parking provider.

Parker, Streetline’s integrated smartphone parking application, feeds users with real-time data of parking availability, pay-by-phone options and alerts for remaining meter times in more than 20 cities, including Reno, Nev., and Hollywood, Calif. Developed in 2010, the application combines pay-by-phone functionality with parking availability data for a “bird’s eye view of the city,” Schwager said.

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How Smarter Parking Technology Will Reduce Traffic Congestion

Author: Sarah Kessler

Between 8% and 74% of traffic in congested downtown areas is caused by people cruising for parking, according to a report by UCLA professor Donald Shoup who synthesized studies from 70 years of research on the subject. The paper indicates that drivers in major cities — including San Francisco, Sydney, New York and London — spend between 3.5 and 14 minutes searching for a space each time they park.

The last study Shoup included in his report ended in 2001. Today, wasted cruising time is likely longer, and it’s on track to get worse. During a recent Ted Talk in March, Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. estimated that the number of cars on the road could go from 800 million to nearly 3 billion by 2050.

Ford also shares a solution for avoiding the gridlock that so many cars might cause (and no, it has nothing to do with reducing the number of cars on the road). What he envisions is a world in which cars are connected to each other and to cities, enabling drivers to avoid traffic, calculate exact driving time and efficiently manage parking spaces.

While the sci-fi possibilities of Ford’s full vision have yet to be realized, many companies and cities have started implementing smart solutions for parking and traffic problems. What they’re learning in these first steps may help shape the future of smart driving.

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Wöhr Multiparker 730

An underground public automatic car park with an amount of 404 parking spaces in total in the center of Budapest, Hungary.

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In The News: Strange on the Streets

Posted in The Public Blog

There was a unique street event in San Francisco (and simultaneously around the world) last week called PARK(ing) Day. Businesses and community groups were encouraged to convert the metered parking spaces in front of their establishments into alternative public spaces. The event plays off what it means when you pay for a parking space, demanding a little awareness from us about this wholly habitual transaction. What is a parking space? What could it be? It’s a fun and quirky event, spread out mostly in the South of Market (SOMA), Hayes Valley, and Mission parts of the city. The best designed installations involved some humor, cleverness, and visual thinking ­­ an architectural pop-up environment made from the recycled cardboard tubes of large format printers by SWA/Studios SWA/Studios on Howard Street and the Pig (Harry Allen), a parked astroturf car piece at Propeller Propeller on Hayes. There were several animated spaces on Valencia Street that included insect habitats, brown bears, panda bears, maroon walruses on bikes (of course ), and more.

PARK(ing) Day asks people to reevaluate the very nature of urban street design and to prioritize the human experience over the car experience. It’s a mild-mannered demonstration, a lot easier for most drivers to accept than the more confrontational Critical Mass. PARK(ing) Day shares much in common with the hugely successful Sunday Streets program where sections of the city are closed to car traffic for a day. Both are international events, exploding in popularity, and well received by the residents and business alike because it increases friendly sidewalk traffic, not car traffic.

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