Is too much technology a bad thing? Is there a point where technology no longer helps but hurts us? I guess it depends on who you ask, as mother always said, there are two sides to every coin. With many technology coins still up in the air, it’s hard to tell just yet whether we can take technology too far; but while the verdict is still out, new smartphone apps are taking advantage of this gray area and turning the tables on city parking. These new apps take power from the government, businesses and city planners and gives it to the urban automobile owner.
Imagine you are driving around looking for a public parking spot in the city to avoid paying parking garage fees. This exercise is painful at best, with the majority of vehicle owners taking long periods of time to find a spot, if they can find one at all. Now imagine you can whip out your smart phone and connect with others that are already using public parking spots and are ready to leave. Continue to imagine that for a small fee, you could be parking in a convenient and cost-effective public parking spot in a fraction of the time it used to take. Sounds great, doesn't it?
Well imagine no more! There are several startup companies that are doing just that. With the help of a smart phone and the included GPS, you can find public parking spots which are about to be vacated. See the driver who is about to pull away from a parking spot can put their spot up for sale and for a small fee, they will wait there until the person looking to park has arrived and is ready to pull in. The person looking to park gets a convenient service, the person giving up their spot makes a few dollars and the company that facilitates the transaction gets a portion of the money paid. It sounds like a win, win!
Eric Meyer, the founder of one of the smartphone apps called, Haystack says that 10,000 people have already signed up for the app in the test cities of Baltimore and Boston. While all seems to be rosy, the question of whether technology is actually hurting us comes into play. Critics of these new apps say this could create unnecessary congestion and a questionable gray market where people are making money off of public property. Critics also say the app can create an incentive for people to squat in parking spaces, cashing in by creating more congestion and problems. Not to mention the setback to businesses such as garages and hotels who now have to compete.
The apps aren't blowing the doors off conventional methods quite yet but it’s easy to see the future if this new technology does work out. One of the main problems is the lack of incentive for people who are looking to leave their spot. With Haystack only charging three dollars per transaction, and taking a cut of that themselves, there isn't much to be made as it stands today. This doesn't really incentivize people looking to leave to wait around five, ten or even fifteen minutes for a potential buyer to come along and park.
Will this idea become a nationwide hit? Time will only tell but if it’s not Haystack or a similar service, it will certainly be something else. Technology continues to grow and shape our world whether we like it or not.