Would you pay a small fee for a street cleaning alerting service?
March 17, 2017 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Parking fines in San Francisco during street cleaning hours are steep in San Francisco ($71). Because parking is tight, my vehicle is not always parked on the same block and I usually just try to remember street cleaning schedule for the street I'm parked on. Obviously not very successfully.

I wish there was a service that would take my address and phone, and on the days that street cleaning were to happen in a X-block radius around where I live, alert me via text and a phone call the day before and day of to check with me if my car/bike is parked there.

I'd like to build a service like this. Question is, would you pay a small fee for it? Say $2 a month ($25 a year). I've easily paid at least $500 in parking citations over the years myself.
posted by vintya to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (35 answers total)
 
Would I? No, because I could set this up as a recurring Google Calendar event with alerts the night before in about 10 minutes, without paying or giving my address & phone number to an unknown developer (and, you know, I'm sure you're a good person, but some people are bad people and some people just don't know how to secure data properly).
posted by brainmouse at 12:07 PM on March 17 [10 favorites]


@brainmouse I've tried that but what usually happens is that I may be in the middle of something when I get the calendar invite and ignore it. I'd like something that persistently reminds me until I acknowledge, may be even calls me the day of to check. But I get your concern about privacy.
posted by vintya at 12:10 PM on March 17


We use the calendar reminder approach that brainmouse mentions. I get the reminder evening before, husband gets reminder morning of. What would the service you're proposing offer to improve on this approach? We obviously still get tickets sometimes, since we don't always park on the same street and streets nearby can have very different cleaning days. I don't know if getting a call or text every time a street within X blocks would be helpful--that would be an awful lot of calls and texts.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:11 PM on March 17


The fact that you still get tickets is exactly what this would try to prevent. If you don't park in the same spot or street, it's hard to remember and you may forget to add a calendar reminder too. Technically, you would not get a message more than 5-6 times a month (at least in SF where cleaning is on odd weeks).
posted by vintya at 12:15 PM on March 17


When I had to worry about this I would have definitely paid for this service. For whatever reason it never occurred to me to set up reminders. I think the extra service it would provide is knowing the schedule for the street where I parked if I tell it where I parked. I'd want to have some trust about who I'm giving all these details to.
posted by bleep at 12:16 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Yes absolutely. Phone calls? Nah. But a text or email? Yes.

Chicago's street cleaning schedules and maps differ ward to ward, and not every ward is good about keeping their calendars updated. And even among those that do update regularly, some of those wards have super cryptic explanations for what sides of the street get cleaned when or zone maps throughout the ward that don't make a huge amount of sense. And I'm a tech literate person who is fluent in English and pretty clever and even still some of the street cleaning schedules are tough to interpret. And you might say, well, they put up signs don't they? And to that I say, yeah well, what if the block doesn't have any trees, or some asshole neighbor tears them down before I see them? It happens.

I know you're asking about SF, but I think there would be a market for a service like this in Chicago, particularly in a ward that's garbage at calendars, though it'd be hard to do on the developer's end for all of the above reasons.
posted by phunniemee at 12:17 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


Just as a point of reference - my street in Oakland has street cleaning parking bans 6 days per week (it alternates sides of the street every day except Sunday), and it varies in frequency in the streets surrounding me. So there is definitely a point about the volume of alerts, and another point about the difficulty in getting this to be accurate everywhere all the time.
posted by brainmouse at 12:21 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


That's a good point brainmouse. If the city doesn't publish this data accurately and in a timely manner, this wouldn't work well (and obviously piss off paying users). I see why volume of alerts can be an issue depending on where you live.
posted by vintya at 12:22 PM on March 17


I think this would work best if it had some sort of thing that would keep track of where you had parked your car (by GPS??) and tell you just for the street where you are currently parked. But, I know nothing about whether that is possible technologically/how one would do it! Maybe some sort of thing you buy and leave in your car, that is then also able to communicate with your phone? We have off-street parking now, but I definitely would pay if we were still doing street parking.
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:25 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't pay for this. I've parked my car on the street in San Francisco for 15 years now and I just make a point of checking the street signs as I leave the car, and being sure I move the car the night before. I've gotten perhaps 3 tickets over the years?
posted by gyusan at 12:26 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I wish there was a service that would take my address and phone, and on the days that street cleaning were to happen in a X-block radius around where I live, alert me via text and a phone call the day before and day of to check with me if my car/bike is parked there.

So, either you would get an alert every single day and then you would have to try to remember if you are parked on that street, or you would have to type the address where you are parked into the app in order to get the reminder, in which case you could just as easily make a google calendar alert, or an alarm.

It's not something I would pay for, unless you could maybe put in some other value-adds. I don't live in an area with impacted parking so no idea what those value-adds would be. But there's a new app being advertised on the radio here in LA called Parking Spot or Parking Pro (sorry, can't quite remember) that is advertising itself as a way for people to find open parking spaces. I suspect it is more for using paid parking lots rather than street parking, but who knows. Maybe try to add something like that in.
posted by vignettist at 12:27 PM on March 17


> If you don't park in the same spot or street, it's hard to remember and you may forget to add a calendar reminder too.

But then you'd have to remember to alert the service that you are now parked on street with a different street cleaning schedule.
posted by rtha at 12:28 PM on March 17


@gyusan can I ask how much those fines were, if you remember? This is one of those problems where prevention is better than cure, especially when just one citation can be enough to warrant a budget item.
posted by vintya at 12:28 PM on March 17


But then you'd have to remember to alert the service that you are now parked on street with a different street cleaning schedule.

I'm guessing you typically parking within a 3-4 block radius of where you live? If that's true then the service wouldn't need to be alerted. It would just presume.
posted by vintya at 12:37 PM on March 17


I think the street cleaning tickets were $50-$60 at the time - they've gone up over the years.

We have jokingly call these tickets "the free-parking tax" since, well, street parking is free, and a garage space costs something like $200 a month in our building. Even if I get one $75 ticket a month, it's cheaper than a garage space. But at our rate it's been one every few years so we just kind of roll with it if it happens.
posted by gyusan at 12:37 PM on March 17 [3 favorites]


We have jokingly call these tickets "the free-parking tax" since, well, street parking is free,

Over 2 hour street parking is not free in SF, gyusan. A permit costs $110 a year now.
posted by vintya at 12:39 PM on March 17


[Heya, vintya, as a general thing it's better on Ask to hold off on the quick fire replies and instead let folks answer the question for a while; if you want to followup later with a comment to clarify or add some key thing, that's fine, but this shouldn't be a constant back-and-forth.]
posted by cortex at 12:42 PM on March 17 [2 favorites]


No, there are plenty of areas where you don't need a street permit. The upper Haight/Buena Vista area is one of them. There is a huge swath of the upper Haight that does not have Residential Permit parking.
posted by gyusan at 12:43 PM on March 17


> I'm guessing you typically parking within a 3-4 block radius of where you live? If that's true then the service wouldn't need to be alerted. It would just presume.

It would presume what? That instead of being parked on e.g. a Monday street, you are parked on a Tuesday one? In the ~ four blocks around me, streets are a mix of Monday, Tuesday, and alternating M-W-F, with some having no-parking hours of 12:00 am - 6:00 am and some of noon - 2 pm.

I guess what I'm saying is, if I have to remember to tell an app that I parked on the east side of the 2300 block of Some Street, I might as well look at a street cleaning sign while I am parking/walking away and then just tell my calendar/reminder to remind me to move the car before [whatever time].

> Over 2 hour street parking is not free in SF, gyusan.

This depends on your neighborhood (streets near me in the Mission/Potrero Hill). Some are sticker-free and yes you can park there all day for nothing.
posted by rtha at 12:45 PM on March 17


I don't live in SF, but in general, this would be awesome. Not just for street cleaning, but for any parking spot that becomes restricted at certain hours.

I'd want it to automatically integrate with something like the T‑MOBILE SyncUP DRIVE that would already know where my car is parked automatically.

In Seattle, this would be most valuable with time-based restrictions (e.g. pay to park 8am-8pm, No Parking 7-9am, Commercial Load Zone 7:30am - 8:00pm, etc) as well as temporary no parking zones (e.g. for construction, by pre-arranged permit).

I would pay for this if it was automatic and let me choose my notification preferences. I could imagine paying a nominal fee for an annual subscription, like $10 per calendar year.
posted by reeddavid at 12:54 PM on March 17


There's a free service in SF at xstreets.org that lets you set up reminders. There was an app that came out a few years called MetroMile that "didn't catch on" according to everything that I read about it. I think this isn't enough of a problem for enough people to make this a profitable thing.

I lived in downtown Boston for years as well, on a street cleaning street, and was never once ticketed or towed. Most people can figure out a system well enough that they won't pay money for this. Would some people? Sure. Would enough people? History suggests maybe not.
posted by olinerd at 1:17 PM on March 17


Just as a point of reference - my street in Oakland has street cleaning parking bans 6 days per week (it alternates sides of the street every day except Sunday), and it varies in frequency in the streets surrounding me. So there is definitely a point about the volume of alerts, and another point about the difficulty in getting this to be accurate everywhere all the time.

For what it's worth, in Sacramento's central city, street cleaning days also alter depending on the side of the street. In addition, the numbered streets perpendicular to lettered streets are different days. So, in the span of two blocks, you could conceivably have every day of the week covered. Using an address wouldn't work here because you'd literally get an alert every day. The app would have to locate the car itself. The ticket here is $52.50.

I probably wouldn't pay a subscription for this because:
1. I would either forget to set it when I left my car -or-
2. If it worked automatically, it presumably would be pinging my location constantly and killing my phone's battery.

I might pay a one time or very small (<$10/year) fee.

The other thing I would worry about as a new competitor is Google building this functionality into maps for free. If they have access to this data and people using Google Maps, they could conceivably build it into the "You've Arrived" view in GMaps, and you'd be hosed.
posted by cnc at 1:30 PM on March 17


I could replicate this for free by
a) creating one alarm on my phone per street cleaning schedule, so maybe there's a MWF alarm and a Tues/Thurs alarm or whatever
b) when parking, opening the alarm app, disabling any still active ones and enabling the one for where I'm parked

I would not pay for anything unless it was WAY more convenient than that.
posted by emilyw at 1:39 PM on March 17


Why make it a paid service? Why not set it up and have advertising on the site? The demographics of the users of this site would be right in the wheel house of most advertisers. 20s, 30s 40s people with money enough to own a car and live in the neighborhoods targeted.

I think if you set this up for several of the major cities, you could make a lot of money on the adverts. See if the cities publish the information in some data form and then you can put the data into some sort of database. I think it is a doable idea, but not so much for subscriptions. Could charge a subscription for a pro model that has no adverts and maybe allows two or three locations at once reminders.
posted by AugustWest at 2:33 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


I have a garage spot now, but I used to park on the street in SF. There's no permit in my neighborhood. However, within a several-block radius there is street cleaning on every day of the week (some of them are twice a month rather than every week). So an alert for every street/block would not be practical for me if I were still parking on the street. However, if I was able to flag where my car was, an alert for that location would be useful.

I probably wouldn't pay for it though. AugustWest is right: Free and ad-supported will get you a lot farther.
posted by radioamy at 4:56 PM on March 17


Where I live (Cambridge, MA) the city drives trucks around the neighborhood on street-sweeping mornings with a loudspeaker message warning everyone to move their car. It's really helpful, and has saved us a few times. So, technically speaking, I do pay for an alert service via taxes, though it's not like I can opt out. I don't know how many other cities do this, but it's something to keep in mind if you're thinking of extending the service nationally.

When we've lived in places without the announcer truck, we just set calendar reminders and it's been mostly fine. I doubt I'd pay for a separate service.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:36 PM on March 17


Well, I've already paid $100 this year in parking tickets for street sweeping. So should I buy this app? Yes. Will I? Depends on how many more tickets I get...
posted by Toddles at 8:34 PM on March 17


What brainmouse said: where I live, cleaning is too frequent. I'd be getting alerts all the time. I'd get very good at turning them off. And on that one day when I was in the wrong spot, it wouldn't help.
posted by salvia at 9:14 PM on March 17


Getting a bit offtopic here, but the app could detect parking location automatically - either by detecting movement and the stopping thereof, or connection and disconnection with a Bluetooth car stereo.

Google now does something like this; it can automatically remember where you parked.
posted by Hatashran at 9:36 PM on March 17


My thoughts are similar to Metroid Babys - I expect the city to provide a reminder service. My last city subscribed to some sort of alert system you could get on your phone by SMS, free. We also had a flashing light on the streets to tell you when you needed to move your car overnight. I wouldnt pay for this - would rather agitate the city to get a service for everyone, which, even if it raised taxes a little, would have to be much less per person.
posted by Miko at 10:49 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


The phone would have to know the exact location of my car.

In my Chicago neighborhood in one block the north side is street cleaning April 1 through Oct. 31, 7 to 9am every tuesday, no parking when snow is over 2 inches, and metered parking 8 am to 10 pm, Mon through Saturday.

The east side is residential zone parking 24 hours, street cleaning first Monday of the month April 1 through Oct 31 9 am to 2pm.

The south side is residential permit parking 24 hours (but a different zone than the south side) first Tuesday of the month street cleaning, same rules as above.).

The west side is umpermitted parking street cleaning 1x month on mondays as above. Across the street from the west side of the block is a school , so there is no parking on that side from 8 to 4 M - F school days only. Street cleaning on a different day.

I just read signs very carefully, memorize the ones close to my house and hope for the best.
posted by AlexiaSky at 11:37 PM on March 17


[caveat: I'm not in SF] Apple maps somehow knows where I parked even if I didn't use maps for directions. I would definitely pay for an app when visiting SF that told me 1. you parked in a 2 hour spot and it's been 90 minutes, do something; and 2. you can't park on this side of the street overnight.

I am in Milwaukee and we have all kinds of weirdo parking laws, especially when it snows. (Over 4", do THIS, between December and March, do THAT, on odd days, do THIS, even days, do THAT. On THIS street, it's 2 hr parking Mon-Fri, but THAT street is Mon-Sat, except Sun 8 am -1 pm.) I'd definitely spend $2 to remember where I parked and remind me if I needed to move it. My home address is irrelevant if it can mark where I parked. I don't see why it would have to constantly ping my car. It can tell when the car has stopped moving, and if it's connected to the car via bluetooth, when it loses the connection.
posted by AFABulous at 7:00 AM on March 18


There was an app that came out a few years called MetroMile that "didn't catch on" according to everything that I read about it.

They're a car insurance company now and their app texts you when you're in street sweeping. You install a GPS tracker in your car because their insurance is mileage based. Works great.
posted by bradbane at 5:59 PM on March 18


I think the biggest problem is that the people who are good about setting up their own systems won't need it and, if it requires any user input, the people who need it won't be good about using it. (I'm in the latter group.)
posted by Room 641-A at 7:37 AM on March 19


I live in Oakland, but: when I've gotten street sweeping tickets it's not on my own street. I always remember those days. I've gotten tickets when I was housesitting for someone or one morning when I tried to be smart and avoid the Trader Joe's parking lot in favor of parking on the street nearby, which, it turned out, had so many free spots for a reason.

So I think to make the app worthwhile it would have to know specificlaly where I'm parked, not just the street sweeping near my house. Automatically alerting me when I've parked for more than 2 hours in a 2-hour zone would sway me toward paying money for such a thing, too.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:36 PM on March 19


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