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Chicago startup takes the pain out of parking

Posting in Cities

There are plenty of reasons why driving in urban downtowns can make you crazy: congestion; people everywhere (on foot, bike, or this thing); and parking. A new Chicago-based startup can't help you with the first two problems, but it wants to make that last problem, parking, a thing of the past. And it's starting with one of the most congested cities in the United States.

SpotHero lets you look for parking and pick a spot on your computer or smartphone before you leave your home. Not only can you choose your parking spot in garages and lots throughout the city, but you can search for the best spot that's closest to your destination and also fits within your budget. No more driving around downtown looking for a cheaper garage, adding to the already congested streets, trying to save a buck. It doesn't hurt that SpotHero offers parking that's guaranteed to be cheaper than a parking lot's drive-up price.

As Alexis Madrigal of The Atlantic put it during his tour of startups in Midwest cities, "It's a simple idea that requires a real company to execute."

The service is similar to a parking app created by BMW that lets you reserve spots. The difference is that SpotHero provides more options at varied pricing levels, but that's also the company's biggest obstacle, according to Madrigal:

SpotHero's big challenge is ingesting all the data about the parking rate structures at dozens of garages. They all work differently and they all have to be accurately reflected in the company's database.

Currently, the company only offers its services in Chicago and Milwaukee, but it plans to expand to Washington, D.C. next.

Parking and Recreation: The Future of Not Circling for a Spot [The Atlantic]

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— By on September 18, 2012, 3:19 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure