When searching for parking, there's no greater satisfaction than when someone pulls out of a spot at the exact moment you approach. It's as if the forces of nature and traffic have conspired to make your day a little bit easier. While there's a bit of serendipitous magic in these moments, a new app called ParkingAuction wants to make the experience a regular part of urban life through an online marketplace for insider parking information. The app's creators promise that it will save time and gas for drivers who would otherwise waste their time circling the block, but it could also cut down on a major source of harmful carbon emissions.
While cities like San Francisco are trying to solve the parking problems at the level of urban planning, ParkingAuction works by connecting drivers leaving a spot with drivers looking for one in real time. The inventors are betting that this information is valuable enough that people would pay real money for it. People leaving a spot can set a baseline price and invite drivers on the hunt to bid on it. Of course, they aren't selling the right to park there–ParkingAuction asks its users to vacate a spot and forfeit the sale if another driver comes along first–just the information that the spot is opening up.
"The ideal scenario is: You know you're leaving in five to 10 minutes," founder Brian Rosetti told Fast Company. "You set your price. If anyone bids on your spot, you get a text message."
Like many good ideas, the inspiration for ParkingAuction was borne of real-life frustration. Manhattanite co-founder Nick Oliva got fed up with all the time and gas he was wasting searching for parking while moving his car to avoid street-sweeping. Fed up, he wished he could pay someone to give him a space instead of continuing to circle the block.
Oliva obviously isn't not the only New Yorker wasting his time circling for parking. On a 15-block section of Manhattan's Upper West Side, the non-profit Transportation Alternatives discovered that drivers burned an extra 366,000 miles hunting for parking in a year. Statistics are even worse in Los Angeles, where 950,000 excess miles were driven per year by parking spot seekers, according to ParkingAuction's website.
It goes without saying that those miles add to drivers' carbon footprints. That extra 950,000 miles wasted 47,000 gallons of gas and spewed out an additional 730 tons of carbon dioxide. As ParkingAuction puts it, "If all this is happening in small pockets of our major cities, imagine the cumulative effect of all cruising in the United States."
The app just launched on August 1, and for now, ParkingAuction members earn parking credits rather than real money when they make a sale. But if Oliva and Rosetti succeed in finding a high-volume marketplace of buyers and sellers the payoff could be sweet both for formerly frustrated drivers and for the environment.