The City has paired up with a mobile application company to help drivers find and pay for downtown parking spots in San Antonio. On Oct. 23, Pango will release an app for San Antonio that enables drivers to find available parking before they reach their destination. Pango is considering the introduction a mobile payment option in the future.*
The city is sharing the data it collects from parking meters for use on the app, which updates every five minutes. That means every spot with a parking meter will be mapped out as available or not on the phone, potentially eliminating the sometimes fruitless, frenzied scramble to find a parking spot, clogging up streets.
Color-coded availability maps display when parking is available and when it isn’t, including special instructions during events. The app also lists prices and descriptions of the spaces.
Public events are one of the many things that make the parking situation in San Antonio especially complicated, with common areas of the city shut down during special events like Fiesta and Síclovía. Parking for these events can be unpredictable and confusing for would-be attendees, so directly connecting providers and users of parking may improve what can be the worst part of attending public events.
In San Antonio, patrons will still have to pay parking meters with coins and card, but Pango may introduce the option to pay via phone while walking away as it has done in 60 cities internationally. A bonus of this feature would be that users can pay for exactly how much time they used instead of foraging for coins and then guessing how many quarters they’ll need, avoiding overpaying and parking violations. For those without the app, Pango can work via a call or a text as well.
For now, the app will only work on network connected parking meters and garages, but more spaces will become available off the street by acquiring and sharing more data with parking garage operators and GPS integration. Still, in October the app will display more than 2,000 spaces.
Entering the market in San Antonio is a big step for Israel-based Pango, which has only begun to operate in a handful of large cities in the United States. In Israel, however, about 90% of parking goes through Pango. The app is only limited to cities that will share their parking data.
Many other cities are coming around to the idea of giving parking data to companies, and Pango is just one parking app of many that are competing, including Austin’s Park Me and New York City’s Best Parking. One thing that distinguishes Pango is that users can find their spot and pay for it – if Pango decides to activate the latter feature in San Antonio.
The city made the first overtures last year towards sharing data with potential parking mobile apps when the Center City Development Office issued a request for proposals directed at developers. Some homegrown options have even been created including an app produced by a group of students at Codeup called SpotSpy.
The city is loosening its grip on available parking data, and there may be substantial changes in the works beyond just parking. For example, the city is currently fielding applications to change the software they use to manage and publish information about land development, permits, inspections, and compliance into a single database that the public has access to.
In transportation alone, releasing the city’s data could substantially improve things. Construction and flooding events can be integrated into GPS route selection, quantifying traffic jams can distribute drivers elsewhere, and taxis could alter their routes based on information about where the most bus passengers get off.
When cities share information, everyone gets more options. Pango could force the most expensive garages to drop their fees because users will be able to price shop by looking at multiple garage listings at once.
The app's interface is smooth and I had no problem downloading it on my iPhone. Most of the reviews on Google and Apple’s App Stores are positive, though there’s lots of potential room for it to be improved and expanded.
Pango's entry into the San Antonio market represents a valuable step in the city’s release of public data and could make parking downtown much easier.
*Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Pango will be offering both location and payment features. For now, Pango will introduce the location feature and may introduce the payment feature at a future date.
Featured/top image: Parking and app graphic courtesy of Pango.