With the ease of ordering takeout for dinner or outsourcing your chores to a stranger, drivers can now reserve a parking space when and where they want it. With on-demand parking app "SpotHero," drivers in 13 cities — and that number is set to expand this year — can call up a parking spot at a garage or other location, reserve it for a length of time, and pay for it all in advance.
The goal? Never circle for parking again.
In an experiment to find the cheapest parking spaces available in a notoriously expensive city, SpotHero vice president of sales Tim Maloney guided NBC News' Olivia Sterns through some of San Francisco's most congested neighborhoods. The app successfully identified parking spots that cost one-fifth the price of other choices just blocks away.
The cheaper rates are made possible by SpotHero's deals with the owners of garages, valet stands, even private driveways, saving users up to 50 percent off posted prices.
SpotHero is one player in a huge U.S. parking industry that generates more than $30 billion in revenue annually, according to industry estimates. Competitors ParkWhiz, Pango, and Parking Panda are all in more cities than SpotHero, but the company says it's committed to offering the best deals and providing extensive inventory in the cities it serves.
Maloney says SpotHero had its best year ever last year, parking more than one million cars. The company has already doubled its available parking spots in Chicago compared to last year, and doubled its space in New York City in just the last six months.
He says SpotHero aims not only to take some stress out of parking, but to improve the transportation system and the environment as well. An estimated 30 percent of traffic in this country is actually drivers circling while looking for on-street parking. By cutting down on the number of people involved in that mind-numbing task, Maloney says, on-demand parking will also reduce emissions.
"We have to figure out transportation as a whole," says Maloney, a self-described "parking geek," referring to ride-sharing apps and other parking apps. "I think everyone will play a part."