The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

iPhone app helps find open parking spaces in San Francisco

A new smartphone application and companion website helps drivers find open parking spots throughout the city. Henry Nguyen / staff photographer

Wasting gas, circling the block multiple times and handling business quickly to beat the meter is an experience Jamaal Jenkins, a SF State cultural anthropology major, regularly encounters in downtown San Francisco when parking.

“It’s the worst when I don’t get back in time and find a fresh ticket under my windshield wiper,” Jenkins said. “Police officers know what they’re doing. It’s all a hustle.”

Jenkins’ story is a common one among San Francisco residents and to ease the frustration, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and Mayor Ed Lee introduced a free iPhone application and website April 21 that informs drivers of the the location and cost of available parking spaces in the city. The application will be available for other smart phone platforms in a few weeks.

Jenkins, who said he drives to school 98 percent of the time, believes the new mobile application will encourage drivers to use their smart phone while on the road.

“If a person pulls over to find a parking spot online, he’d probably get there last,” Jenkins said in an email. “People are in a hurry. Of course they’re going to use their smart phones while driving. It’s the nature of the city to move fast.”

Albie Esparza, a San Francisco Police Department spokesman, said the new application may help people find parking faster, but it won’t excuse them from getting a ticket for driving while using an electronic device.

“Drivers must pull over and while the vehicle is completely stopped — which doesn’t mean a red light,” Esparza chuckled.

According to Esparza, the first offense will earn the driver a $20 ticket, and any subsequent offenses result in $50 tickets.

Others think the app will be beneficial.

“I don’t believe it will encourage drivers to use their phones while on the road,” said George Turner, an SF State graduate student studying gerontology. “It definitely sounds helpful.”

According to the SF Park website, parking rates will be adjusted once a month beginning this summer in increments of 50 cents per hour or less to have at least one open parking space on every block most of the time and to encourage drivers to park in garages that generally don’t fill up.

Currently, the SF Park pilot project covers 7,000 of San Francisco’s 28,800 metered spaces and 15 of 20 SFMTA-managed parking garages located in the Civic Center, Hayes Valley, Financial District, SoMa, Mission, Fisherman’s Wharf, Fillmore and Marina neighborhoods.

Neither SFMTA nor SF Park officials responded to emails or phone calls.

This project will soon be joined by several other new plans. Later in the year, drivers won’t have to run out of class or work to feed the meter because SFMTA will make pay-by-phone service available at every meter in the city, allowing people to pay with credit or debit cards over the phone or online.

The pay-by-phone service will require the driver to create an account that is linked to a credit or debit card in order to pay by entering the number of the parking location on the meter, according to the project’s website.

This optional service, which would also send customers a text message reminder before the meter expires, will cost a driver the meter’s rate and an additional $0.45 fee for each transaction.

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iPhone app helps find open parking spaces in San Francisco