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Pain-free parking apps give you one less thing to whine about

Amber Bouman | Aug. 22, 2013
If a free app can save you from getting a parking ticket, or wasting gas while hunting for a space, you better believe it's worth a download.

In addition to being a rather chaotic city to drive in, San Francisco can be a total pain in the ass to park in. Don't believe it? If you need an example of exactly how premium a price the city's resident will pay for a solid spot, consider the parking space that recently sold for a reported $82,000. But as gross as that sounds it's not even a record—earlier this year, two tandem parking spots were recently auctioned off in Boston for $560,000. That would pay for over 7,567 parking tickets in San Francisco, which has the highest parking ticket fees in the country ($74 for a downtown violation).

Of course, the only way you'll get a ticket is if you can't find a nice, legal, available space. That's easier said than done—but it's also pretty easily done with the help of these handy parking apps for iOS and Android. And unlike a coveted big-city parking space, most of them are even free.

Park Circa—iOS, Android (Free)
An app with a social component, Park Circa is designed to connect those who have under-used neighborhood spots with those who are really, really over-circling the same 10 blocks trying to find a spot after 6:30. A little bit Airbnb, a little bit Foursquare, Park Circa allows owners of parking spaces to register their spot, and the times it's free, on the site and app.

People who want to park there can use the app (or the web browser) to find a spot, and then check in—for a small fee of course. The system is in private beta at the moment, so it's only available in pretty limited areas. In San Francisco, for example, it only finds results in sections of the Inner Sunset, Cole Valley, the Haight, and North Beach. Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, Oakland, Sacramento all also show results, and there are scattered results through Texas, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New York, Washington, Virginia, Massachusetts and more.

Those are some lucky locations—the app is nicely designed. Once you're registered, Park Circa uses your phone's GPS to locate available spots. You can peruse a list of results or plot them on a map, and details on each spot include a photo, the type (for example, a carport or driveway), maximum size, fees, and a description. If one of them is to your liking you just tap the "Check In" button. The app will tell you how long the space is available for, how much the owner charges to park there (which may vary depending day or time), and will transfer the funds from your account to the owner's account automatically when you return to "Check Out." You'll rack up some steep penalties if you overstay your welcome, however.


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