Idea for Trailhead Parking App

General discussions on hiking in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest
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arlohike
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Idea for Trailhead Parking App

Post by arlohike » April 1st, 2018, 8:33 pm

I'm an app developer. After the discussion about permits at the Dog Mountain trailhead, I was thinking about building an app that lets users check in when they arrive at a trailhead to indicate how full it is (and check in again when they're leaving, for a second data point). Then other users could look at the trend line and see if it's getting fuller or clearing out, or look at historical data (e.g., same day last weekend, or same weekend last year) to make plans about when to arrive. The app could show nearby alternatives if the first choice trailhead parking is full.

The goals would be to save frustration for individual users, and to maximize access by nudging usage away from peak times.

The use case would be that I get up on a Saturday morning, check the trailhead I wanted to go to, and see either a) it's not full yet but getting there, so I'd better get moving, b) it's already slammed, so I should make different plans, or c) very light usage, so I have time to eat breakfast with my family or do a couple chores before I go.

Do you have any feedback on this idea? Particularly...

1) Is this a unique problem to the Portland / Gorge area (where I've done most of my hiking), or does this seem like an issue that would be relevant in other parts of the country, too?

2) Does something like this already exist? A quick search of the iOS and Android app stores didn't turn up anything.

3) Do most trailheads have mobile phone access -- at least the trailheads that are busy enough to need this kind of attention?

4) Would anyone in the hiking community say that making access to hiking trails more convenient is a bad thing? I heard some grumbling along the lines of "now more people are going to spill over into the obscure trails that I currently have all to myself" in the Dog Mountain thread. Or maybe balancing the usage throughout the day would lead to more use overall and increase the need for trail maintenance. Or maybe there's something else I'm not thinking of that would annoy other hikers or the agencies that manage the trails.
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mjirving
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Re: Idea for Trailhead Parking App

Post by mjirving » April 1st, 2018, 9:32 pm

Great idea, kind of surprised there’s no solution for this yet. To add to the brainstorm it might be nice for anyone to report the capacity of the parking in addition to an individual check in. (e.g., 15 of 20 spaces taken, or something like that. Certainly there are locations with no service, but that is decreasing and so many do have service. I think it’s a universal problem. And the answer to your last question is, “only if we’re selfish” ;-)

When will you have that ready for me? :-)

Mike

Oh...it could benefit the less busy ones just as much as they typically have smaller parking areas.

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retired jerry
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Re: Idea for Trailhead Parking App

Post by retired jerry » April 2nd, 2018, 5:46 am

Yeah, good idea.

MJIs idea is good too, because probably most people wouldn't use the app. Telling how full it is would be more useful.

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arlohike
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Re: Idea for Trailhead Parking App

Post by arlohike » April 2nd, 2018, 6:48 am

mjirving wrote:To add to the brainstorm it might be nice for anyone to report the capacity of the parking in addition to an individual check in.
Oh yes, that was the plan -- my description was unclear. I was thinking the check-in would consist of two questions: how full is the parking (multiple choice: deserted, light use, medium use, heavy use, overflowing) and an optional comments field. So we'd need multiple people checking in throughout the day to establish the trend line, but we wouldn't need everyone at the trailhead to check in.
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squidvicious
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Re: Idea for Trailhead Parking App

Post by squidvicious » April 2nd, 2018, 9:01 am

arlohike wrote:Do most trailheads have mobile phone access -- at least the trailheads that are busy enough to need this kind of attention?
I think this will be your biggest issue. For a while as part of my safety plan I was trying to text from the trailhead to say where I was and when I was starting (since I wasn't always sure by the time I left the house), but too often it was not possible.

But even without service, people would still be able to post what it looked like at the time that they left, once they were back in cell range. And you could get good research asking people here to post where they've been and what service they had with what carrier.

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Re: Idea for Trailhead Parking App

Post by Chazz » April 2nd, 2018, 10:54 am

How about another feature where you can report break-in's with a time stamp. It might help people narrow down when their car was vandalized.

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arlohike
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Re: Idea for Trailhead Parking App

Post by arlohike » April 2nd, 2018, 11:10 am

Chazz wrote:How about another feature where you can report break-in's with a time stamp. It might help people narrow down when their car was vandalized.
Yikes!

Another feature could be a simple report of weather conditions, since that's often different from the weather report for the nearest town. On the other hand, that can change so fast it might not be very useful.
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squidvicious
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Re: Idea for Trailhead Parking App

Post by squidvicious » April 2nd, 2018, 5:36 pm

Hold on, don't write that off so fast! It's true weather changes quickly, but trail conditions not so much. Even more than parking lot trends, it would be really valuable to me to have current reports re: snow on the trail, blowdown, mud, even flower bloom. I think that's the kind of stuff people would really to know, but people generally wouldn't write a whole trip report for just that. You could probably get a lot more useful reconnaissance circulating if it were as easy as a few quick taps on an app.

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mjirving
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Re: Idea for Trailhead Parking App

Post by mjirving » April 2nd, 2018, 8:58 pm

You probably have this in mind, but in my opinion, I'd be careful about not developing an app that is just another hiking app. I'd keep it pretty simple, unique, easy and utilitarian (as mentioned above to just check in by hitting a few buttons). There are apps out there already (e.g., All Trails) where you can comment about the trail and so forth, but its not something I ever really do. If it's more utilitarian around your vision of parking, and things that change quickly, like that seems better and more compelling to me where you'd be more likely to have lot's of people with quick little checkins (vs a more involved mini-trip report). Maybe start with keeping it simple and then grow it??? I don't know...just thinking out loud here.

Mike

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sgyoung
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Re: Idea for Trailhead Parking App

Post by sgyoung » April 2nd, 2018, 9:27 pm

To address your first question, at least in my experience parking is challenging for hikes in my area. For example, the go-to Delaware Water Gap hikes on the NJ and PA sides get very busy (think Dog Mt levels) in the summer. When those lots are full it's a real pain to figure out an alternative (can't leave the car on the shoulder of I-80 west, for example). Similar issues are certainly the case in New England or other areas in NY (e.g., the Adirondacks).

In these areas cell phone signal tends to be decent as well, although this issue is tricky. Still, this is a cool idea and seems like something that might be of interest to hikers outside the Portland/PNW region.

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