If you’ve parked in a downtown metro area, you may have had the experience of standing in front of a sign wondering what it means. Does the arrow go this way, or the other way? Except on weekends? Excluding public holidays? Or including them? Street cleaning?
Parking, in short, can be confusing. And, if you get the sign wrong, expensive. Which is why something like Park.IT—an app that tells you whether it’s safe to park, and sends you reminders when you’re time is up—could come in useful. Simply view the map, tap your precise location, and plug in how long you need the space for.
Calvin Liu, who developed the app with Manohar Kamath, says he came up with the idea after getting towed in San Francisco. "The city changed the sign for the street I was parking on. I went in front of a judge, and he has sympathetic, but I had to pay. So, I asked if there was some way of finding out independently if changes had occurred."
It turns out there wasn’t, not really. Cities like San Francisco do keep records of parking regulations. But the information is scattered between departments, and kept in various formats (and quite often wrong, Liu says). So, Liu and Kamath have done the mapping themselves, starting with San Francisco, Santa Monica, and downtown L.A.
"When inaccuracy means a cost to users, we prefer to go out and get a clean set of data ourselves and use the city data as comparison," Liu says.
They also have data for New York (though it’s not published yet) and plan to cover Washington, D.C. soon (Liu says that will take 10 days to 3 weeks). So far, about 3,000 people have signed up for the service, which also tells you about things like "curbing" (turning in the wheel)—a requirement for hill-parking in San Francisco.
Ultimately, Liu and Kamath would like Park.IT to be integrated into GPS systems. "As nice as the app is, we want this in the navigation on the phone or the car. You want to know how much the parking costs, and whether you can park there. You know how it is: You see a spot on the street, and you’re immediately suspicious. 'Why’s it open? What’s wrong with it?' If it’s part of the navigation, then you know."