December 9, 2011

Last weekend the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) SFpark project released a data set including information on the location and schedules of regular tow-away zones in the city. The SFMTA hopes developers will incorporate this data into apps and websites to help San Franciscans avoid the unpleasant and costly experience of getting towed and parking tickets.

Reset San Francisco got our hands on this data a while back and offered a $1000 prize to developers to turn the data into an app to help prevent getting towed.

Our mobile app Parkzing developed by Aren Sandersen is an automated towing notification system that allows drivers to know when they’re in a tow away zone. You can read more about the Parkzing app here.

Open Data Spurs Gov 2.0

The release of this tow zone data by the SFMTA means more developers and coders can utilize it to create similar useful apps and websites aimed at helping people avoid the pain and expense of a towed car and to find an available parking spot quickly. You can access the SFMTA’s data online here. The data is 95% accurate, and the SFMTA is working to improve the accuracy of the data set.

The SFpark project shows the power of better living through better information. The SFpark real-time parking app shows drivers open parking spots in neighborhoods including the Mission, Marina, SOMA, Financial District, Fisherman’s Wharf and Hayes Valley. The app allows drivers to stop circling for a spot and makes parking in San Francisco easier.

While the SFpark app cost millions of dollars and took years to create, Parkzing shows how dramatically more effective open government can be. By releasing tow data to coders, we were able to have a developer code it into a useful app in a weekend for only $1000.

Imagine all the things we could accomplish if government could be this fast and this effective more often. That’s what our Reset San Francisco community is all about — working to help government catch up to the innovativeness of San Franciscans, so the world’s very best city has the world’s very best city government.

You can download the Parkzing iPhone app from Apple’s iTunes Store here.