New app promises to find extra parking spaces for your downtown

Fri, 2015-12-04 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

Smart parking has a wide range of economic benefits. For one, many cities can double their parking revenue by taking better advantage of existing spaces in public garages. For another, most cities see an increase in retail tax revenue --  when people spend less time looking for parking, they spend more time shopping (and they come downtown more often because they know parking will be easy).

But what if you could go beyond public garages and tap into unused capacity in privately-owned garages? That’s the idea behind the application described below, which creates a “marketplace” for private parking slots. Could you borrow this idea for your city? – Jesse Berst

As city populations swell, so do the headaches city leaders and managers need to deal with. Two of the most obvious and aggravating are traffic congestion and parking. While London currently has the questionable honor of being the city with Europe's worst traffic problems, plenty of cities in the U.S. and elsewhere are known for legendary traffic snarls that drag out travel times, contribute to air pollution and frustrate drivers.

Scarce parking contributes greatly to congestion as drivers circle blocks several times waiting for a space to open up. Companies have come up with smart parking apps and systems, such as that developed by Council Associate Partner Siemens which employs a smart phone app and radar to find parking places and provide other information about them. Others use embedded sensors -- and there are other solutions for solving parking problems and reducing the accompanying air pollution.

Another way to free up parking

But Nick Austin, CEO and founder of Australian car parking app company Divvy, took another approach. He was frustrated enough at not being able to find parking while working in Sydney -- so frustrated he quit his job and started the car parking platform.

Divvy sniffs out vacant parking spaces in commercial buildings and other parking garages, which are becoming more scarce in central business districts as urban density increases. As Austin explains " There aren't a whole lot more car parks being built in cities, so they're set to become a more rare and expensive resource. That's why it's very important to improve their utilization. To waste an important, increasingly rare resource in our urban environments is just negligent," he said in an interview with Sourceable.

As cities become smarter and more connected and people become more reliant on smartphone apps, he sees what his company is doing as a natural fit for smart cities. "If I have a car space sitting vacant, I can lease it to you via an app, and you've now got a place to park where you need at an affordable rate. You can search for parking with the app, you can book it, pay for it, as well as use your phone as an access device for a building.

"It's about creating a form of smart city technology, which actually connects someone to the city, as opposed to just information and payments for a specific service." He added it's a win for large property companies too, since their unused spaces aren't generating revenue when they're vacant.

"By providing a broader footprint of parking, and providing access to parking that sat behind closed doors and just wasn't being used, we tackle the problem directly without any cost to the taxpayer, while the benefits go back to the community."

Related articles:
Need a parking space fast? There's a winning app for that
U.S. traffic headaches grow steadily worse, roads alone can’t cure them
Brussels relinquishes "worst traffic" title; see how it’s doing it

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.