App Helps Urban Drivers Avoid Street-Sweeping Tickets

By Matt Schmitz  on April 4, 2014

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You thought to yourself, "This is too good to be true," last night when you pulled into that parking space right in front of your building. After all, you live on a crowded street in a crowded neighborhood in a crowded city and normally have to circle the block at least three times. Yet there was a curbside space so big you maneuvered into it nose first. And why not? Everyone lucks out and snags a sweet spot once in a while, right? Actually, maybe not. See, what you did was park on the side scheduled for overnight street sweeping, and then you were greeted by a nice fat ticket when you left for work the next day.

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And so goes the plight of the urban-dwelling car owner. If you are one, you've likely experienced any number of similar scenarios, from snow tow zones to construction parking bans to parade routes; street-sweeping-related parking tickets rank among the most common. According to pay-per-mile car-insurance provider MetroMile, it was the most frequently issued of all tickets in San Francisco in 2011, at $60 a pop costing the city's drivers $29 million. But the story should be relatable to motorists in other congested metropolises like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago where parking is tight and warning signs confusing.

To help drivers avoid getting cleaned out by street-sweeping tickets, MetroMile has developed a smartphone app that warns parking motorists. Working in tandem with the company's connected-car device, the Metronome, which plugs into a vehicle's OBD-II port, the app uses onboard GPS to note the location of the parked vehicle. If it's in a street-sweeping zone, the app will send a push notification 12 hours ahead of the sweeping schedule and a reminder an hour before.

"Our street-sweeping notifications are the latest feature in our platform of services that provide practical solutions to some of the largest challenges of urban car ownership," MetroMile said in a statement.

MetroMile started offering free street-sweeping notifications to its users in San Francisco on March 31; additional markets will follow. The company currently offers its services in California, Washington, Oregon and Illinois, with expansions planned.

In the meantime, Cars.com's news team has some ideas for future apps to aid in the sorts of challenges we face here in our home base of Chicago. The apps we came up with, some of facility, some facetious, are as follows:

  • Matt Schmitz, news editor: "One that reminds me to grab my Starbucks cup off the roof before driving away."
  • Evan Sears, photo editor: "Forgettr: The app that gains control of your smartphone-enabled car to drive you back to your house because you've forgotten your phone on the kitchen counter (in development; patent pending)."
  • Jennifer Geiger, assistant managing editor: "An app that tells you if more than 2 inches of snow is forecast for your area — a lot of streets in Chicago ban parking if 2 inches or more is on the ground, but sometimes it's hard to tell."
  • Kelsey Mays, consumer affairs editor: "I'd like an app that reminds me not to drive on certain roads when there's known road construction — and told me when it was OK to drive on a certain route when said construction ended."
  • Bill Jackson, assistant managing editor/research & production: "How about one that senses you're driving and then flashes a message that says 'Put me down and drive'?"
  • Joe Bruzek, road test editor: "I want an app that will remind me to knock off spirited driving when there are bags of groceries in the trunk. I always forget, and always lose an apple or wind up with a bag of crumbled tortilla chips."
  • Aaron D. Bragman, Detroit bureau chief: "MUVit: An app that breaks into the phone call of the meandering, distracted idiot driving in front of you, allowing you to yell at them to hang up and DRIVE."

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