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Free parking for NYC’s drivers?

Posted By Karin Kloosterman On December 31, 2009 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments

How would you like a free parking spot in New York City? Two Israelis based in Manhattan could help you find a space with a new iPhone application.


Photo by Dan Wuh on Flickr.
Parking at broken meters can save New Yorkers up to $500 a month on parking bills.

Most people in New York City take the subway or a cab because finding and paying for a parking spot is often a time-consuming, expensive and frustrating experience. Two Israeli high-tech innovators could have an alternative, however.

The two men, from the one-year-old company, Guerillapps in Manhattan, have developed a new application using city data that identifies broken parking meters around the city, letting disgruntled New Yorkers park for free.

The free program for the iPhone was developed by Raviv Turner, Ilya Levin, and team of three others at Guerillapps. Called NYC Broken Meters, the developers created the program in response to a competition from the City of New York, called NYC BigApps, which invited applicants to use city data to create new free applications.

According to New York City bylaws, a parking spot at a broken meter can be used for one hour for free. With over 5,000 broken meters at any given time in the city, the number of free parking spaces can add up to huge savings in parking fees – as much as $500 per month.

While it might seem counterintuitive that a city would cooperate with such a project, Turner tells ISRAEL21c that it would help the local authority take stock of its broken meter problem. Currently the teams reporting broken meters only cover 6,000 square meters a month. If citizens were involved, updates would be more accurate and rapid.

Pay it forward, with parking

“Have you seen the movie Pay It Forward?” asks Turner. He says his scheme is similar to the plot of the movie where people help each other in a kind of good deed pyramid scheme. “It’s kind of like that,” he explains. Parking is a serious problem for people in New York.

He thinks people would report a broken meter on an open-source application on their iPhone so that in the future they could also enjoy the benefits of someone telling them where they could find a free, broken-meter parking spot.

ISRAEL21c catches up with Turner in between media interviews at the New York Post, NBC, late night news programs and the Israeli media. Even though NYC Broken Meters is a free application, Turner admits that the media attention has done wonders for public relations at his business.

“We didn’t make [Broken Meters] for the money,” Turner tells ISRAEL21c. “We do our work making original applications and work for hire. In this case, we wanted to do something for the city. Parking is an issue for people working and driving in the city. We registered for the competition and it’s paid for itself.

“We’ve got lots of inquires and are working on the next update. What’s nice is that we are doing crowd sourcing of broken meters to the database. We won’t only be dependent on city drivers to report broken meters in the future, but plan on reporting our results back to the city. This creates a win-win situation and motivates the city to repair a broken meter.”

An application for other cities too

Those interested he adds, can also use Guerillapps’ code and try to develop Broken Meters in other cities around the world. There has already been some interest from Tel Aviv, his home city, says Turner whose goal was to find a solution for drivers like himself in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and on Staten Island.

Based on data collected by human meter readers, Turner explains that the idea is to eventually change the application into an open-source application, where drivers themselves can update the status of broken meters as they encounter them.

Other common crowd-sourcing programs include Yelp where users upload their reviews of restaurants for other people to follow. There is also the Israeli-made open-source GPS called Waze, taking streets by storm. It alerts users to areas where there are traffic jams in the city so they can avoid them.

Now Turner and his team are waiting to find out if they will win the competition on January 7. If they win, the city will get a license to use the application and advertise it. In return, Turner and the others will win some prize money.

Whether Guerillapps wins or not, Turner believes this line of open-source thinking can lead to many new kinds of community involvement in the city. People could report trees that need maintenance, for instance, or sewers that need to be fixed, garbage that needs to be collected, or even potholes that should be brought to the city’s attention, Turner hopes.

If you like the idea, vote for it on the NYC website: http://www.nycbigapps.com/application-gallery.

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