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Monday, September 17, 2012

An App to Help You Find Parking On the Spot


Parking Panda, an online service that helps you find and reserve parking spaces, has added the San Francisco market to its inventory and launched a mobile app to help you find parking on the spot.

The app makes it easier to make reservations and pay for them on the fly when you're away from your computer, said Nick Miller, the company's chief executive. “With the app, you can locate a space where you are and book one right near you,” he said. The app is now available for the iPhone, and will be available eventually for Android devices too.

Parking Panda is sort of like a parking version of AirBNB, the site that helps property owners rent out spare bedrooms or vacant apartments to travelers seekin g a bargain. Another similar offering is Parkatmyhouse.com, which started in Britain but is trying to expand in the United States.

Parking Panda lists both commercial lots and garages, as well as privately owned, individual parking spaces. Owners upload a description and often a photo of the lot, as well as a schedule of when it's available. When drivers reserve a space, they enter a description of their car online. Payment is taken care of through the app (or online) by credit card, so there doesn't have to be any interaction between the owner of the space and the driver.

The start-up was already operating in Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D.C.; this week it moves into San Francisco and Oakland, Calif. and should be available soon in Philadelphia as well. The site has about 20,000 spaces that can currently be reserved through the service. (Parking Panda lists parking in other cities, like New York and Chicago, but doesn't offer the ability to reserve spaces in advance and pay for them; you have to go there and pay in person.)

In Baltimore, Mr. Miller notes, many homeowners near the city's football stadium list spaces on Parking Panda. “For events, even if the stadium has parking it sells out, and half the people attending can't find parking,” he said. “So this adds additional inventory, without driving around for 45 minutes.”

But he also expects the app to be useful in areas like San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood, where restaurants and bars regularly draw crowds but there is limited parking.

If you try Parking Panda, let us know about your experience.