CITYWIDE — On a Friday night, nothing rankles the weary traveler more than incessant circling in bumper-to-bumper traffic only to see “Lot Full” signs plastered on every visible parking lot, structure or random alleyway.
So, while many citizens of Santa Monica complain about traffic and parking, two Crossroads High School graduates set their minds to doing something about it.
Sam Friedman and Alex Israel launched a business called Parking in Motion, a company which provides real-time parking data through GPS and smart phone applications.
They were inspired by their own woes trying to park in the city by the sea.
“We started three years ago,” Friedman said. “We were both born and raised here. We wanted to figure out how to solve the parking problem on a macro level, and that means helping people find parking.”
They decided to create a nationwide real-time parking system, which not only tells users where parking structures and lots are, but if the sites are likely to have parking spaces by the time you get there.
“If you’re driving into Santa Monica on a Friday night, parking will be a nightmare no matter what, but we can tell you which lot and which street to go down first,” Friedman said.
Israel and Friedman launched the company straight out of college. The original base of operations was Friedman’s garage.
The first year and a half was an uphill battle as both tried to educate themselves on how to get the business underway.
Although neither of them had any experience in technology or parking policy, what they did have was hustle.
Friedman and Israel surrounded themselves with an advisory council of experts, including Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA who “wrote the book” on parking.
Parking in Motion officially launched in 2009.
Using a variety of open source technologies, Parking in Motion crafted a free app available on iTunes that guides people to their ultimate destination.
PIM covers 20,000 public parking lots in 300 U.S. cities, 50 in Canada and 200 in Europe. The information comes with rates, hours, entrance points and, eventually, how many spaces are left in any given location.
Their ability to provide that kind of detail is completely dependent on municipalities and private garage operators’ ability to keep track of their own parking supply, however.
The guys reach out to cities with offers of aiding with traffic congestion in return for real-time information.
“We’ll provide the value-added service, all we need is data from the cities,” Friedman said.
Santa Monica was the first city included in the PIM database.
“It was easy to work with the IT department in Santa Monica,” Friedman said. “Beyond that, we wanted to test it ourselves.”
Santa Monica’s street and garage parking already has the capacity to link into GPS devices, said Don Patterson, Santa Monica’s business and revenue operations manager.
The app is free, so the company has to make money in other ways. Garages pay PIM to market to customers using the platform, and the company gets paid for its licensing deals and location-based advertising.
The technology is ever-evolving.
PIM hopes to roll out an app with the capability to reserve and prepay for parking before their users arrive at the garage, potentially cashing in on discounts for advertising garages and hooking up patrons with coupons to local restaurants or other attractions.