When I sat down at Coffee Exchange with Albie Brown, a computer science senior at Brown, the arrival of parking meters on Wickenden Street was still a very real possibility. Since then, the City has said that it will back away from its plans, at least for the time being, and instead will try new signs and upping their parking enforcement efforts. Still, parking seems to be this year’s “PawSox are moving to Providence” brouhaha. For a budding entrepreneur like Brown the time, he admits hesitantly, couldn’t be better.
“We’ve stayed out of the debate, but it’s really easy when everybody’s talking about an issue to come in with a solution. They’ve been very receptive to it.” That solution? An app called Spotter that works like Uber for parking spaces. Created with his classmates and business partners Nick Demarco and John Bui, Spotter was developed as a part of a class called CS Startup. With $1,000 from an anonymous donor, the three partners got to work on trying to solve what they were seeing all around them as a problem.
The idea is to utilize “idle assets” like driveways or other private parking spaces when their owners are away. The way it works is that anyone who wants to rent out their driveway or parking space can sign up through Spotter’s website, www.parkwithspotter.com. There they have full control over when their space is available for others to use. On the user’s side of thing, the Spotter iPhone app shows all available spaces on a map – blue spaces are available, gray are taken. The user can select a spot to rent, or simply tap the big blue button on their screen to automatically snag and direct them to the nearest open space.
Cost for parking through Spotter is $1 per hour, which is already less than the City’s $1.25 per hour minimum. Of that $1, 90 cents will go directly to the space’s owner, with seven cents going Spotter and three to cover processing fees.
So far, response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive. “People from all over Providence have thanked us and are very excited to see it,” says Brown.
At the time of press there were 45 spots signed up for the East Side, and four area nonprofits have also made spaces available. Sixty beta testers have been busy putting the app through the ringer to work out any bugs before Spotter goes live – it’s intended to be a solution to parking woes, after all.
“With driveways we [can] resolve some of the pain associated with parking,” explains Brown. “By generating these new parking spaces we’re reducing the need for garages and lots which would otherwise detract from the beauty of the city.”