App helps drivers find and reserve open parking spots


To see the breathless parking valets running around San Francisco's downtown Marriott hotel you might not guess it is one of the slowest times of the week. Though they expertly squeeze cars between pillars, putting small ones in small spaces, and big ones in big spaces but entire rows of spaces sit empty.

"We always have parking available for hotel guests," Towne Park District Manager Guy Purser said.

But they're not coming for hours. And meanwhile, the garage at the office building across the street is full.

So why can't the hotel rent out those empty spaces for just a few hours? Now they can.

ParkNow is a free app that calls itself the Expedia of parking. It offers drivers cheap rates on spaces that would otherwise sit empty -- as long as you agree to be out by a certain time.

ParkNow also has a green side. For one thing, it'll let you search for garages that have electric charging stations, and reserve one of them in advance.

And ParkNow's CEO says the average user books a spot 11 hours ahead of time which in theory cuts down on circling.

But perhaps the most interesting thing about ParkNow is who's paying for it. It's a joint venture between a few private investors and BMW.

"You look at any city and really, owning a car is one of the things you almost regret when you move to the city," ParkNow San Francisco manager Ry Sanderson said.

So as more Americans move to big cities, it's in a car company's best interest to take the headache out of owning a vehicle.

"BMW has been focused on trying to find ways to ease the stresses associated with mobility, particularly here in the US where our congestion issues are much more significant than other markets," ParkNow CEO Gary Neff said.

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