Streetline Unveils iPhone Parking App, Seeks to Take Guesswork out of Finding a Spot

12/22/10Follow @wroush

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321, then rose to 325. But Yusuf says the plan was always to open up this information to consumers, once enough people owned GPS-equipped smartphones like the iPhone.

The Parker app doesn’t pinpoint individual spots that are unoccupied—that might prompt drivers to race one another to open spots, with unsavory results, Yusuf says. Instead it shows the general number of open spaces on each city block, with icons reading “>2″, “2+”, or “4+”.

Given that 30 to 40 percent of the traffic in many downtown areas consists of drivers looking for parking, according to some studies, simply showing drivers which streets have the most open spots could dramatically reduce congestion, Yusuf contends. With better information about parking-spot occupancy, cities could also manage congestion more actively—for example, reprogramming digital meters to charge more when parking is scarce. “It’s essentially a real estate play,” says Yusuf. “You have thousands of parking spots that are not priced correctly. With dynamic pricing cities could not only get more revenue, but allocate resources better.”

Streetline has deployed sensors in downtown Los Angeles as well as L.A.’s Chinatown and Studio City neighborhoods. There are also Streetline sensor networks in Sausalito, CA, on Roosevelt Island in New York City, and in a few commercial parking lots in Salt Lake City, UT. The company could have waited to introduce Parker until even more cities have networks to tie into the app, but “it’s always a chicken-and-egg situation,” says Yusuf. “We intend to add other cities where we are deployed pretty quickly, and we’re doing a bunch of pilots. As deployments increase, your ability to find parking will increase.”

The company expects to introduce a version of Parker for Android phones in the first quarter of 2011, and it also wants to work with car companies to allow access to the parking data from in-dash navigation systems.

Other startups such as SpotScout and ParkingSpots.com have attempted to ease urban parking woes through a combination of metering and mobile or Web-based alerts, but Yusuf says Streetline is the first to make information about on-street spots available to drivers in real time. The app can’t yet direct drivers to commercial lots with open spaces, but that would be an easy upgrade, he says.

“We think this will change parking forever,” Yusuf says. “Three to five years from now, people will say, ‘What do you mean, you used to drive around looking for parking? Didn’t you just get the information from your phone?’”

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • David L

    The added revenue from writing more parking tickets more than makes up for the cost of installing the system.

    That may be true in the very short run, but it’s not sustainable. Once drivers eventually realize that they are 100% certain to get a ticket when they park illegally, they will stop taking the chance, and ticket revenue will drop to near-zero. Unless the goal is to maximize available parking with no regard for ticket revenue, they will want to strike some sort of equilibrium between ticket cost and probability of receiving a ticket.