SAN FRANCISCO — A parking app that reliably helps find open spots in this congested city was coded on a turn-of-the-century tugboat in Sausalito.
The Terrapin served David LaBua as a coding den for VoicePark, a free app that uses sensors to monitor parking spots. It’s the only one we’ve tested to date that guided us to viable public spots on the busy streets of San Francisco.
“Parking is probably San Francisco’s biggest stressor, and writing about it has been very therapeutic for me,” says LaBua, who holds a master of science in psychology. “I had no intention of getting into the app game, but there was a real need for it.”
LaBua became a self-taught expert on parking in the town known for its hills, restaurants and arbitrary parking laws while living in the notoriously hard-to-park North Beach neighborhood. Such was his obsession that he penned a book about parking titled Finding the Sweet Spot and writes a gripping column where readers ask him for advice on their most pressing parking conundrums.
San Francisco’s parking pinch is a sign of the city’s tech-fueled growing pains. While the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency counts more than 442,000 free and paid parking spots, it’s evident from a map the city produced that most spots are concentrated downtown, not in tech-boom areas like the Mission, where workers often circle pointlessly searching for a spot in a neighborhood that’s part residential, part industrial.
A bunch of parking apps — including the transportation agency’s own app, which gauges availability and pricing — aim to smooth over the bumps in finding a spot. Push came to shove recently when the city attorney cracked down on parking apps based on the concept of drivers selling spots, which means the race for the best parking app is still on.
Right now, the VoicePark app monitors 18,000 parking spots in eight pilot areas with about 11,000 of those spots on the street. Each spot knows its built-in rules (street cleaning times, passenger loading zones) so the app will never guide you to a spot that’s not legal. “Ideally, someday, it’ll drive you to every spot in the city,” LaBua says… (more)
Many SF residents differ as to why the parking in SF is such a problem. Many blame the SFTMA not the techies, for eliminating parking spaces all over the city. Their latest scheme is to privatize the streets by selling or leasing parking rights to corporations who “share” their profits with the SFMTA. That is where the “sharing economy” concept comes from. Only apps that “share” their profits with the SFMTA are allowed.
If you feel as many do that privatization and commercialization of our streets is wrong and want to change that, vote yes on the Restore Balance Transportation Initiative in November. Passage of this ballot will send a strong message to city authorities that the citizens disagree with the SFMTA program of eliminating public parking from pubic streeets and are demanding a halt to these practices.