Get In A Car Wreck While Searching For A Parking Spot? Yeah, There’s An App For That

It was going to be so magical. It was going to change everything. It was to be the single greatest thing to happen to parking since the rear view mirror–one of those things that, as soon as it came out, everyone couldn’t remember how they survived without. A smartphone app that tells you see the location of available parking spots in real time. No more driving around, looking for parking near that hot new Thai restaurant until you give up in a fit of rage and return home to eat pizza in your sweatpants.

Launched to much fanfare earlier this week, the app is part of the ambitions SF Park program designed to fundamentally alter the way San Franciscans leave their cars places. The central component of SF Park is variable pricing for parking meters–increasing the price during peak hours and lowering it during the off-hours in an effort to price parking such that there is always at least one available parking space per block. While the app shows the location of open spaces, it also displays the cost each space–allowing drivers make informed choices about where to park.

Mayor Lee described the program as something designed to make everything about parking less dumb, “How many of you have been dumb in your past? How many you have acted dumb? I know I have,” he said. “You know, when you’re driving around looking for a parking space and you’re double parking and you’re running around trying to see whether something will open, you’re dumb.”

Hmmm…is there anything else dumb there? Oh yeah, getting people to drive around San Francisco with their heads buried in their iPhones. Not only is it dumb, but it’ll also get you an expensive ticket if a cop sees you doing it. A warning pops up when the app opens, and when it detects movement over 10mph, advising drivers not to operate their vehicle while using the app, but it never stops working no matter how fast the car is moving. “There’s no such thing as slowing down when using the device,” the Mayor admonished potentially distracted drivers, “you have to stop. That’s the law.”

All of this hoopla is operating under the assumption that the app works as advertised and isn’t a completely worthless piece of crap taking up precious phone memory that could be better devoted to those ever-so-angry birds or a tiny Rebecca Black that fits in your pocket. CBS’s illustrious Beth Spotswood tried out the app and she was less than impressed. After fruitlessly trying to use the app to find a spot for 45 minutes, she eventually gave up and found one the old fashioned way.

It’s Not Easy Being Yellow (Cab)
It’s a good thing that MTA is considering giving cab drivers the go ahead for an across-the-board rate increase that would go right into their pockets because driving a taxi is hard work. Not only do cabbies have to deal with the everyday gauntlet that is driving in San Francisco, but when they inevitably get stiffed by passengers nobody does a damn thing about it.

When cab driver Dean Clark picked up a sketchy fare who eventually stiffed him, he expected SFPD to maybe help him out a little. No such luck. “I guess the moral of this story is Taxi Drivers pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for permits per year to the city of San Francisco. In addition through our gates we pay the cab companies pay plenty to the city,” writes Baker. “What do the San Francisco Taxi Drivers get in return when there is a problem? Obviously not even a police report.”

Muni Driver Is Awesome
Let the record show that Driver 3313 went out of his way to help a passenger find his lost phone. And here’s another helping an old lady get on the bus.

MTA Honors Cam Beach
Cam Beach, a member of the MTA Board of Directors who passed away last month, was honored by the agency with the renaming of Geneva Yard after him. Geneva Yard is where Muni stores and services its historic streetcars, which were always close to Beach’s heart. Beach will be replaced on the MTA board by transit activist Joel Ramos.

Muni Diaries Live!
Quick: what are you three favorite things in the world? It’s cool, you don’t need to answer because I already know–drinking, Muni and listening to people talk. That’s why you, and everyone you know, needs to head over to the Make-Out Room tonight for Muni Diaries Live! It’s the third birthday of much-loved transit blog and they’re celebrating with the help of MissionMission‘s Ariel Dovas, H.P. Mendoza of Colma, The Musical, two-time Oakland Spoken Word Grand Slam champion Joyce Lee and more.

Rage Against the (Bike) Machine
Everyone in San Francisco loves bikes and adding bike lines to every road ever. It’s only curmudgeonly Rob Anderson who has a problem with efforts to turn every car into a bicycle, every SUV into a tandem and every homeless person into a bike rack.

Wait, other people have complaints too? That’s what Scott James, in what Streetsblog calls a “Shoddy Attempt to Stir Bike Plan Opposition,” says.

No, they’re not allowed to have those. Only card-carrying members of the Bike Coalition (like me) can complain about things.

A Fun And Easy Way To Scam Muni
1. Get a Clipper card.
2. Hop on a bus.
3. Don’t scan your card.
4. When the cops come on the bus to check fares, just show them your card because they don’t have the technology to actually scan them.
5. Do a little dance when you get off at your destination free of charge.

On second thought, please don’t do this. If Muni doesn’t get your dollars it’s just going to get worse.

Do you want it to get worse? Do you? Do you?

Texting Muni Operator Still Driving Despite Supposed Suspension
When Shawn Higgings took a video of a Muni driver texting instead of devoting her full attention to avoiding distracted drivers starting at MTA’s parking app on their cell phones instead of watching the road, he thought he could get something accomplished by reporting her. The driver was put on a paid suspension (this is Muni after all) and Higgins rested easy thinking his work was done.

This Thursday, much to Higgins’ surprise, he saw the same driver still driving on the same bus line–completely ignoring the suspension. After Higgins reported the driver to Muni for a second time, an agency spokesman said that the driver will be fired. So why’s she still driving? Who knows.

Muni’s Open Door Policy
Remember that video from earlier this month that showed a Muni train running with the door open?

Well, it happened again, this time on the L line. Bu this is weird: the Ex says that “Muni spokesman Paul Rose said the agency reviewed mechanical and maintenance records of the vehicle in question, and watched video footage from Thursday night’s run, but could not find any evidence that a train door was open.”

Maybe MTA should develop an app to fix that? Just a suggestion.

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  • Ross

    after seeing the announcement the other night i decided to create an android app that uses the SF Park web service. i spent ~3 hours friday evening, saturday morning, and a couple hours this morning creating SF Park:
    https://market.android.com/details?id=com.neces.sfpark&feature=search_result

    i don’t like the map UI for finding a spot, there are some pluses, but it doesn’t give you enough information at a glance in order to make a quick decision. i focused on a list of “blocks” and garages (the way the data is broken down.) you can sort them by distance from your location, cost (and then distance) or number of open spots (then distance.) the listing tells you the block/garage, price, number of open spaces, and the rate(s.) clicking on a row takes you to a page with all of the details for the spot.

    thoughts/feedback greatly appreciated.

    -rm

  • Greg Dewar

    By making the API open, there’s no reason car manufacturers who have “smart car” systems on board (hey you can post to facebook with your voice on that one Ford) couldn’t include it as an app for ther in dash systems.

    This is only a pilot as is the SFPark system, so it’s bound to have flaws. the MTA would be better off doing what they did with NextMuni data – let it be free and let people come up with their own apps for different functions. So far we have at least half a dozen for iphone and some for Android, each with its pluses and minuses.

  • Greg Dewar

    Also, Phil Hoffman was not on the SFMTA board, he was on Market Street Railway’s board and a former longtime employee of Muni. An amazing guy and amazing resource for history fans, he will be missed.