New Parking App Touted by the PPA Does Exactly Nothing You Want It To

Introducing ParkSnap, the app you need less than any other.

Promotional screenshots of ParkSnap app via iTunes

Promotional screenshots of ParkSnap app via iTunes

When we read last week on the Philadelphia Parking Authority blog (yes, the Philadelphia Parking Authority actually has a blog, and yes, we look at it regularly) about a new parking app for the city, we thought: Finally! We can finally add time without running to the car. Bravo, PPA! After all, remote app payment for on-street parking is available in lots of cities all over the country, even in such tech hotspots as Ft. Lauderdale. Alas, we couldn’t be so lucky.

The new app is called ParkSnap, and it does not allow you to extend your parking time. The app wasn’t actually developed by the PPA — an antiquated bureaucracy that should not be in the app development business — but designed by a local software developer for use with Philadelphia’s parking system. You can use it elsewhere in the country, but as the developer states in the app FAQ, it was “optimized” for our fortunate city — and the PPA has fully embraced it in all its uselessness.

Here’s how ParkSnap works.

When you park and pay at a kiosk, you take a picture of your receipt — the thing that you’re supposed to stick on your dashboard — using your phone’s camera, which interfaces with the app. The instructions indicate that you may have to do some cropping. ParkSnap also notes that sometimes the app won’t be able to read your receipt, in which case you are to enter the expiration time on the ticket into the app manually. (This is, of course, all assuming that you are actually parking on a street with a kiosk that prints receipts as opposed to one of the old school meters that still line many streets of Philadelphia.)

The idea here is that once you take a picture of the receipt, ParkSnap knows what time your parking spot expires, and so it sets a timer to alert you when your time is almost up — sort of like if you just set an alarm using the clock app that comes with your phone, the app that’s designed to remind you of important things like, you know, parking expiry.

“It gets cooler,” promises the PPA blog.

The cooler that the PPA is talking about is that ParkSnap will remember where you parked and will give you directions back to your car if you forget where you left it. This seems slightly more useful, although we can’t say that we’ve ever forgotten where we’ve parked on a city street. ACME parking lot or King of Prussia Mall, yes. Market Street, not so much. If you’re so forgetful that you forget where you park frequently, you might also forget to put money in the kiosk in the first place. Or you might forget to stick the receipt on your dashboard. Or you might forget that you were supposed to drive into the city for an appointment to begin with, making the whole point moot.

“But wait, there’s more!” the PPA blog continues with unbridled enthusiasm before pointing out that ParkSnap is so damn smart that it can actually calculate the walking distance to your car. It’s like the future has finally arrived or something.

And then to “top that off” you can — are you ready for this? — email or text the picture of the receipt to yourself. The PPA says this is useful just in case you get a ticket even though you’ve paid for parking. We hear a lot of people complain about their parking tickets, but in the end, the vast majority of parking tickets are perfectly legit. If we did want to contest a ticket, it would be great if the app would handle this for us, but it doesn’t. You have to email the receipt to the PPA yourself.

In other words, the app doesn’t do anything that you need done and in the unlikely event that you did need it done, your phone is already quite capable of doing everything that the app does without downloading yet another app to your phone — not to mention the fact that we really don’t like the idea of the PPA being in any way connected to our phones. That’s one privacy policy we suggest reading very carefully.

“This new app is about 5 years behind the times,” wrote one commenter on the Philadelphia Parking Authority Facebook page. So true. And yet, when you think about it, that’s actually not too bad when it comes to the PPA.

The headline and first two paragraphs of this story have been updated to clarify that the app was not developed by the PPA.