Desperate for a parking spot? There's an app for that

SAN FRANCISCO - Rudyard Kipling said "San Francisco has only one drawback-- tis hard to leave."

These days, there's another--tis hard to find a parking space.

Some entrepreneurs have found a solution which is giving city government road rage.

At some time every driver about to pull out of a parking spot has thought: "I could sell this space." Now there's an app for that.

For a price, smartphone apps will match a driver searching for parking with someone about to leave a space
CBS News

So, this would be saying, "Here's my parking spot that I'm about to leave?'"

"This spot is available," explained Dan Shifrin, the co-founder of ParkModo, a smart phone app. "I'm about to leave. I posted it for $5."

For a price, the app will match a driver searching for parking with someone about to leave a space.

"Why not meld the efficiencies of a marketplace that ultimately can make a very bad situation like parking in the city better for everyone," Shifrin asked.

The solution to the problem of too few spots has upset city officials
CBS News

ParkModo along with two similar apps, MoneyParking and Sweetch, have chosen San Francisco as their first test market. This city, crowded with technology companies and never enough parking, would seem the perfect place to launch a smartphone parking solution. But San Francisco has declared the parking apps illegal.

"This is trying to take a public asset that doesn't belong to them and make a profit off of it," said Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the city attorney. "That's all this is."

ParkModo's co-founder argues that his app doesn't charge for a parking spot. It charges for knowledge.

Dan Shifrin
CBS News

And there is money exchanged?

"There is money exchanged -- if you want to purchase my information and I want to offer you my information," he said.

So that's his point -- he's selling information, he's not selling a parking spot?

"I'm just saying when I'm leaving," Shifrin said. "That's all we're doing."

San Francisco is threatening to slap a $300 fine on anyone using the apps. In a city where cable cars are part of the public transit system, changing the way drivers find parking is turning into an uphill struggle.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.