OAKLAND -- Parking won't likely ever get cheaper. But at least there are two tools that may help make finding a spot easier.
One parking app, ParkMobile, has been operational since mid-May.
The second one is Parkola 1.2, and it was just expanded from San Francisco to include Oakland. This app will help narrow the location of open spaces and, with the help of its users, might do even more.
With ParkMobile, motorists have the option of signing up by phone or online at us.parkmobile.com. The information is on the Kelly green signs attached to parking kiosks around the city. They then can pay for parking using either method or by swiping their smartphone QR Code readers. The amount is deducted automatically from the credit card registered with the company. ParkMobile charges a fee.
ParkMobile is a spin-off company of ParkMobile Group and BCD Holdings, the Dutch parent firm to Park N Fly, among other companies. Its major investor is Fontinalis Partners, founded by William Clay Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co.
Parkola connects to ParkMobile in Oakland (PayByPhone in San Francisco) to let users pay for parking through the app.
That is where the similarity ends, at least for the time being.
In San Francisco, users can find parking places and get street cleaning alerts because Parkola analyzes data from several sources made available by the city. In Oakland, the picture is more difficult because few parking regulations and data are online.
So Parkola's developer, Alex Redstone, focused the Oakland version on finding the streets where parking is available in general. There may be no spots, but at least drivers can narrow down the search.
Parkola users can fill in the missing data and create a repository of the city's parking regulations so others can see information about street sweeping schedules, tow-away zones and residential permit zones.
"Oakland will be mostly a blank slate, but with the ability for people to add street regulations," Redstone wrote in an email.
He compared the feature to a mobile wiki for street parking. "If everyone adds their own street, the whole city could be mapped very quickly," he said.
"This is the first step in avoiding parking tickets."
That could also mean fewer visitors leaving with an unpleasant memory of finding one of those dreaded green envelopes tucked under the windshield wiper.
The hope is also to relieve congestion and collect data that would help the Oakland Planning Department show where parking demand outstrips supply.
Parkers in San Francisco can use Parkola to locate empty spaces. Parkola also remembers where the car is parked and sends a reminder when it is time to move.
If the streets are full, drivers can use Parkola's map to find the closest parking garage and look up the hours of operation and the number of spaces in each garage.
"The Oakland streets are ready to be filled with data from helpful Oakland citizens," Redstone said.