By Allison Matyus
Chicagoans know all too well the familiar scenario of looking for a parking spot in the city, whether that’s in overpriced parking garages or looking for an open curbside parking spot. It’s become a daily routine for the lives of city dwellers, but a Chicago-based app has taken the parking situation into their own hands.
SpotHero is a free mobile app that reserves parking spots for its users. The company started in 2011 by co-founder and CEO, Mark Lawrence, and co-founder and CTO, Larry Kiss.
The co-founders’ own experiences sparked the idea that is now SpotHero.
“SpotHero’s founders were living in Chicago when they managed to amass several thousand dollars worth of parking tickets,” said Margo Kahnrose, the brand and creative director at SpotHero. “They figured they weren’t the only people struggling with chronic parking problems, so they decided to find a better solution and SpotHero was born.”
Kahnrose said that Lawrence and Kiss first began as a startup, offering reserved spots in individuals’ driveways, garages and even backyards throughout the city. Now, the app matches drivers with valet parking, garages and lots in 30 cities across the U.S.
The app works like this: users open the app and enter the general area where they want to park. They can then compare prices, pay to reserve a spot in the allotted amount of time they book and park their car.
“SpotHero is focused on helping drivers get where they’re going with confidence and ease, giving them predictability and control over more aspects of their transportation experience,” Kahnrose said.
While the app is becoming more popular in Chicago, some users have been using it to park for years.
Chicagoan Troy Manley said that he first used the app for the 2013 Lollapalooza Music Festival…a time when parking is even harder to find than a regular weekend in Chicago.
“I managed to get a parking spot less than 10 minutes walking distance for $8,” he said. “It didn’t seem real, but I wasn’t going to argue.”
Other users have also said that the app seemed “to good to be true,” but with over 4 million parking reservations having been made through the app, the idea seems to be catching on.
The app is focused on helping users with both the issue of parking availability and parking prices. Chicago Sabrina Ibrahim said that both of these difficulties led her to use the app.
“I spend more time driving around looking for a spot, then when I find one, it’s an arm and a leg to park there,” she said. “I don’t want to have to worry about feeding the meter or paying a fortune when I want to go downtown.”
Manley said that for him, the main parking issue isn’t availability, but pricing. In an average parking garage located in Loop, the rates run anywhere between $28-$35 for two to six hour parking.
“It’s more the high rates…especially in the Loop or River North areas,” he said.
According to Kahnrose, that area of the city has become one of the highest demands for parking.
“There’s been heavy demand for commuter parking, especially in the Loop & River North neighborhood,” she said. “We’re also seeing an increasing number of drivers using SpotHero to purchase monthly parking.”
Kahnrose said that SpotHero’s main goal is to help drivers get where they’re going with confidence and ease, which sometimes means the feeling of knowing you’re not going to get that ominous orange parking ticket.
As an homage to the co-founders’ own struggles with parking tickets, SpotHero recently reimbursed City of Chicago parking tickets given on Dec. 14 of up to $100, so it’s no wonder the feedback from Chicagoans has been positive.
“The Chicago love is enormous, from the amazing local tech community to a loyal user base who has been with us from the beginning, and we’re told we’re a must-have tool in the city-dweller arsenal,” Kahnrose said.