By adaptive - September 11th, 2017

Parking in New York City can be hell for residents and visitors alike. The city’s ParkNYC app aims to ease that pain. Hans Klis provides a progress report from the Big Apple.

In the seventh season of the TV show “Friends,” character Ross Geller buys himself a shiny red sports car after he turns thirty. Wanting to show off this gift he got himself, he offers his buddies a ride. Only his car is so tightly squeezed between two other parked cars, Ross can’t get out.
It’s a perfect metaphor for living in New York: parking is hell. And honestly, what was Ross thinking living in Greenwich Village and owning a car?
To help ease the pain of New Yorkers trying to park, the city launched ParkNYC last year. This Android and iOS app essentially is a mobile parking meter. Users sign in with their phone number, email address and license plate information. They fill up their ParkNYC wallet from their debit or credit card with a minimum of $25 to a maximum of $150 (commercial vehicles can add more).
Whenever drivers find a free parking space they just type in the specific zone number and the length of their stay on the app; and that’s it. The ParkNYC app notifies users five minutes in advance that their meter is running out and offers to extend the time. No more fumbling with debit and credit cards, or quarters, and no more running to your car just to find a fresh ticket on your windscreen.   
Officials in Mayor Bill De Blasio’s office tout ParkNYC as another high-tech component in a more convenient, safer, and connect New York City.
Just like the free services such as wi-fi, with the LinkNYC consoles spread across the five boroughs, this mobile parking app helps New York aspire to be a smart city of the future. 
ParkNYC, operated by private vendor ParkMobile, was implemented by the Department of Transportation (DOT) on December 19. “With ParkNYC, drivers no longer have to scramble for change or even walk to a Muni-Meter to get a receipt for their dashboard,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a press conference with Mayor Bill De Blasio last year.
“With no added fees, mobile alerts that let you know when your parking session is ending, and the ability to extend a session without returning to your car, ParkNYC offers a great convenience to New York drivers.”
DOT also hopes to save about $2 million a year in credit card fees and personnel costs with this digital solution.
Initially offered only some of the busiest streets in New York, between Manhattan’s 14th and 59th Streets, ParkNYC has since been rolled out in the other boroughs. In May the service became available in Brooklyn and Staten Island and if all goes well, Queens will join the fold this summer.
Since its launch, the ParkNYC app has been downloaded over 92,000 times for iOS devices and 29,000 times for Android platforms, a DOT spokesperson says. “It’s used over 13,000 times daily and continues to grow”.
Those are impressive numbers. Especially when you realize ParkNYC is a pretty clunky app. It requires users to manually key in their location each time to park. That means walking up to a Muni Meter and reading the zone digits, something you might want to avoid in the bitter cold of a New York winter.
“If the location feature is turned on, it will place you in the app.  But the exact blockside zone number has to be keyed in,” the DOT spokesperson explains, adding, “Zone numbers are unique to each block and each side of the street. Just as parking regulations differ from one side of the street to another, the zone numbers do as well.”
The user download numbers are even less impressive when you look at the total number of vehicles in the city of New York. According to statistics of the New York State DMV more than 2.1 million cars were registered in the five boroughs (of which more than 1.9 million were standard vehicles).
Asking around in Manhattan and Brooklyn, it can be difficult to find New Yorkers who know of the existence of ParkNYC. The DOT assures Open Mobile Media that it’s working on educating drivers. But the city is not planning to replace all 85,000 Muni Meters with a mobile solution anytime soon.
Also ParkNYC doesn’t solve the biggest problem for New York drivers: finding a parking space. You’re better off using apps like SpotHero or Parkopedia for that. That last one offers its three million users an overview of more than 50 million free spaces in streets and garages across 75 countries in some 6,300 cities. The service tracks parking spaces using a network of sensors but also predictive algorithms based on historical data.
Parkopedia is also integrating its software into connected cars, creating a giant database of user and parking information - its users generate more than half a billion data points each day. No surprise there that the company founded by CEO Eugene Tsyrklevich is slowly and invisibly becoming an Uber or AirBnb-like tech behemoth. Global market research and consulting firm Markets and Markets projects the smart parking technology market – e.g. sensor and image technology - alone to be worth $5.3 billion in 2021.
Even though New Yorkers have been lukewarm in their response to ParkNYC, the city and operator ParkMobile stand to benefit greatly from the app in the same way that the Starbucks app did with its wallet functions.
“In the first quarter of 2016, consumers gave Starbucks an interest-free loan of $1.2 billion by loading money onto Starbucks cards and the mobile app,” says Eddie Yoon, author of “Superconsumers” and a growth strategy expert at The Cambridge Group. “The coffee company raked in $146 million in interest alone.”
Getting New Yorkers to spend dollars before actually using them to park is an ideal way for the city to generate passive income, just as Yoon found Starbucks does.
It’s an excellent strategy for growth of city services. According to DOT, ParkNYC users automatically refill, or load, an average of $25 onto their account. If every daily app use would be accompanied by a $25 payment, this would generate over $119 million a year. Wouldn’t it be great if New York could use that money to fix potholes or maybe reinvest in creating better parking spaces?
It might not help Ross Gellar in his shiny red car, but the average New Yorker – who embodies all of Ross’s neurotic glory - would likely be very grateful.


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