This Brand-New Parking App Wants to Help You Avoid Pesky PPA Tickets

Crowdsourced app SpotAngels — which helps users find metered spots and navigate parking rules — has debuted in Center City. Here’s how it works.

Image via SpotAngels

Parking in Center City is about to get a whole lot easier.

A new (free!) parking app called SpotAngels debuted in Center City on Tuesday — and unlike other parking apps, it helps users find metered spots on the street, not just in often-pricey garages.

How does SpotAngels work? The information the app provides is crowdsourced, meaning the app gathers real-time data from many individual users to better inform all users. (Apps like Waze, Uber and Transit, which you’re probably already familiar with, use crowdsourcing too.) The app’s information gets increasingly accurate as more people use it — so for SpotAngels to work well, a crowd will have to get on board.

Here’s why we should: In addition to using crowdsourced information, the app builds and relies on a “precise” public and private parking map that helps you navigate the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s parking rules, whether those rules involve meters, residential parking, no parking zones, no standing zones, street cleaning, alternate side parking, or handicapped spots. That means you might have a slightly better chance at finding a spot that won’t get you a ticket.

After you download and open SpotAngels, you’ll see a map with icons that indicate street parking, parking garages, and metered parking. You can search for parking near your current location or near your intended location by clicking “find parking here.” (It’s important to note that as of the app’s debut on Tuesday, parking information—including rules and potential spots—was only available in Center City. The app’s coverage area will likely expand as more people begin to use it.)

When you’re ready to find a parking spot, you can choose your arrival time, the duration of time you wish to park for, and your desired price and type of parking. Once all that is set, SpotAngels recommends a few spots, including those favored by other drivers who have parked nearby.

Image via SpotAngels

After you pick a spot, you’ll notice that the app will offer to help you find directions there (via Google Maps, Waze, Apple Maps, or whatever GPS system you prefer). There’s also an option to share a spot’s location if you’re helping someone else find parking.

Once you’re in the spot (or once you’ve chosen one and are on the way), click the “set as parking location” button to let the app know which location you’ve selected so other users are aware it’s taken. When you get there, you can let the app know if you see open spots on the block so other drivers will know if they should head that way.

After you’re parked, the app will begin tracking how long you’re permitted to stay there (if it’s a two-hour parking spot, for example), and send you a notification when it’s time to update your meter or move your car. When it’s time to go, just hit the “leave spot” button so other users know the spot is available.

SpotAngels, which was founded in 2016, has already debuted in cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It differs from apps like SpotHero or Parkwhiz largely because it shows public street parking as well as parking garages. And, of course, it’s much different from the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s MeterUp, which really just exists to help you pay those meters without having to walk back them. (And which some Philadelphians aren’t particularly fond of.)

So yeah, an app that helps us find parking spots and navigate the pesky PPA to avoid tickets? We’re into it.