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Use parking apps to find lots, garages, valet, and meters

Glenn Fleishman | July 21, 2015
If you own a car in America, you need a place to put it, overnight and intermittently. If you're lucky while at home, that's at a curb, in a drive way, or in a spot in a garage or lot thats yours all the time. For every other combination in commercial or business parts of cities, particularly downtowns, you'll almost always need to pay for it.

thinkstock parking lot

If you own a car in America, you need a place to put it, overnight and intermittently. If you're lucky while at home, that's at a curb, in a drive way, or in a spot in a garage or lot thats yours all the time. For every other combination in commercial or business parts of cities, particularly downtowns, you'll almost always need to pay for it.

As Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and others have tried to fix the problem of getting a car for hire on demand and paying with a tap, so too are dozens of companies working on a complementary problem: parking. Each has a particular niche.

Luxe, for instance, offers parking in several city centers, and acts as an on-demand valet, picking up your car at a point you ask them to, and delivering it again anywhere in its service area. PayByPhone focuses on meters, and lets you avoid fumbling with coins or a credit card to park on the street and be warned when your time is nearly upwith an option in some cases to extend without penalty.

In this roundup, Ive broken down parking apps into several categories for clarity, because few of the apps overlap the kinds of parking for which they assist. Many apps are exclusive to iOS or iOS and Android, but some work via multiple platforms, web apps, and even SMS.

Pickup/dropoff valet parking apps

This relatively new category of app has been accelerating since mid-2014, as startups have raised more cash and expanded into new markets. These apps offer the experience of valet parking without having to go to a particular location. Rather, they work within relatively large service areas, typically in downtown or other dense retail and business districts. Zirx and Luxe are the two major companies in this space with service in multiple cities.

The idea is this: when youre about to leave or en route to a location in a service area, you tap Uber like! for a pickup. The service does its back-end logistics magic and tells you approximately when someone will arrive at the point you picked. As you get closer, it pairs an agent with you, and tells you the valets name, shows his or her picture, and lets you directly text or call.

When you arrive, you hand off your keys and away you go. Zirx uses a four-digit PIN displayed in your app and the agents app; Luxe relies on the agents picture. (Zirx and Luxe have their valets wear yellow and blue branded shirts, respectively, too.) I've used both Zirx and Luxe in downtown Seattle and downtown San Francisco, and using both apps has been both cheaper in every case and vastly simpler than finding parking.

 

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