Parking on the Head of a Pin: An App That Miraculously Finds a Spot

Evidently, rideshare start-ups — or "Transportation Network Companies" per the new patois — aren't the only businesses to benefit from an impending BART strike. A Santa Monica parking directory service picked this moment in commuter hell to launch its new smartphone app in San Francisco, ParkMe: Users punch in their location and find the closest and cheapest available parking, be it hourly garage or metered space at a curb. Founders Sam Friedman and Alex Israel spent years developing a comprehensive local parking database, dispatching their team of engineers to map out every single spot.

Discovering such a sacred thing as the number of parking places in San Francisco sounds not unlike the riddle of angels dancing on the head of a pin; thus far, they've found 129,000 spots. Such knowledge could affect the $113 million in annual parking citation revenue.

The SFMTA's deputy director of transportation planning and sustainable streets, Tim Papandreou, says that while parking efficiency apps could help get drivers into spots quickly, they also might encourage people to drive more often. Then we'll need an app that counts the number of urban planners going slowly mad.

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