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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.

The app itself is fairly straightforward: it displays results on a map, with street results indicated by colored lines, and parking garages by pinpoint letter P's. Tapping on any result brings up more data—in the case of street parking, it will tell you how many spaces are estimated available at that location, rates for each time of day, and street sweeping info. In the case of lots, it will display the estimated number of spaces in addition to the address, hours of operation, special pricing info (for events, different vehicle sizes, and peak hours), and the phone number if available. Be warned, you will have to zoom into each neighborhood to make sense of the results, as they appear as a mess of colored dots if you're zoomed out too far.

The results are color coded (a key appears in the top navigation) and can be toggled between displaying available spots, or showing results according to price. Other than a Refresh button, and a More Info icon, that's it—short, sweet, and to the point. While the technology involved is pretty cool, we wouldn't mind seeing a few more features thrown in once the program progresses.

BestParking—iOS, Android (Free)
Much like the other apps here, Best Parking provides information on parking in lots and garages (but not streets) in 100 North American cities—and 115 airports as well. Another standout aspect: Because BestParking prides itself on providing the most accurate data of any parking app, it offers a $5 Starbucks eGift card to users who report inaccurate information.

It has an impressive number of results—pulling too far back in the map for downtown San Francisco produced a mess of results in a full array of colors indicating the lowest to highest rates, with yellow indicating the lowest rate, red the highest, and gray indicating the spot is unavailable. Prices are also overlaid onto the result pins so you can see if there's a better deal around the next block.

The app interface itself is a bit plain, opening to a search page where you can use drop-down menus to select city or airport; then specific your location by neighborhood, address, attraction, or GPS; toggle between daily or monthly results; then select time of arrival and departure; and hit search. The results are shown on a map, and tapping on one produces information on the exact address, hours of operation, phone number, rate estimate, parking types (indoor garage, self park), rules (for example, no vehicles over 6'6"), and payment options.

An optional in-app upgrade lets you access additional features such as photos, navigation (unfortunately via Apple Maps), horizontal orientation, vehicle tracking in current location searches, and Pioneer AppRadio support—but they're not really necessary. Even with just the basic features, it's still a lot better than having your passenger yell "Oh! That was one right back there!"


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