Stirrings of a Parking Revolution

by James A. Bacon

Parking may be the most under-appreciated factor driving urban economics. Street parking takes up valuable space that could be used for bicycle lanes and sidewalks. Parking lots and garages create walkability dead zones in the urban fabric. And drivers add to congestion in busy urban centers as they drive around and look for parking spaces, spending as much as eight minutes on average, by some estimates.

Fortunately, the advent of the GPS-enabled smart phone is revolutionizing the parking industry. Parking will never be the same. A couple of straws in the wind…

First, consider Parkopedia, which claims to track 25 million parking spots in 6,300 towns in 40 countries in its database (the number increases every few seconds as new parking spaces are added to the database, which you can track in real time on the home page):

Parkopedia combines … two concepts in order to allow people to find the cheapest and most convenient parking available, no matter where they are or where they are going. Our crazy-about-parking (or maybe crazy-about-not-getting-parking-tickets!) users contribute information about street parking, parking meters, garages and even private driveways that are for rent.

We then apply a bit of magic and show you the closest and cheapest available parking in your chosen area on the dates you have selected. We now have over [25] million parking spots listed and the number is growing every day!

Parkopedia generates revenue by selling mobile apps for $1.99 (iPhone version).

Second, Baltimore-based Parking Panda has just raised $4.8 million in private equity funding. That company helps city dwellers make money by renting their garages, driveways or other property in neighborhoods where parking can be hard to find. An English company,, and Chicago-based serve the same niche. They make money by capturing a share of each transaction.

The potential exists for new enterprises to convert what had been unrecognized parking capacity (garages, driveways, alleys, front lawns, whatever) into functionally usable parking space. That’s a god-send for big events like concerts and college football games, which generate parking overflow. It’s bad news for parking lot owners who will see a lot more competition for their product. But it’s good news for fans of urban density: Insofar as the technology shrinks demand for acreage-hogging parking lots and ugly parking decks, space dedicated to parking will be convertible to other, more productive uses.

Listen up, local governments! City councils need to pay close attention to this trend. Parking apps represent a sea change in the supply and demand for parking. Municipal parking policies, which have seen minimal change for decades, will need revamping. Savvy cities will exploit this technology to convert unproductive, parking-related land uses to productive, tax-generating land uses while simultaneously making their neighborhoods and business districts more attractive.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


5 responses to “Stirrings of a Parking Revolution”

  1. larryg Avatar

    covered multi-level parking is much, much better for the environment.

    open, uncovered parking – is a large part of the runoff problem in many areas including Fairfax.

    the smartphone has great promise in helping to allocate available space that is not easily known by those looking for space.

    but the biggest thing that govt and corporate could do to help the environment is to NOT give FREE parking nor give subsidies for parking.

  2. larryg Avatar

    I think I got the gist of the article but I’m pretty skeptical about it and I can give an example. There is a place in Richmond, Va where purple martins mass at some times of the years.

    All “birders” know about it and when the notice goes out that the birds are once again massing in the evening.. a pilgrimage begins to be there.

    It’s in a parking lot where a farmers market is but in the evening the market is shuttered.

    We got there and the lot was full so we started looking for on-street parking and it was taken so we stated moving a block or two away and found spots… then I noticed the local situation …. which basically came across as – “this is not a good place to park unless you’re okay with your car getting boosted or broken into”.

    so.. I’m a little skeptical that these types of places can be changed by getting people to park there.

    I think what happens is people’s cars get broke into and similar.

    this is what you are really paying for at a pay lot – at least the places I’ve been to. Even though some lots will say “not responsible” – you are banking on the fact that there is an attendant with access to a phone.

    I’m not a city person to start with. I’ve had enough experience with them to know that there are places in the city where you should not be at certain times… and the people who live there – know that – but the rubes from the country do not.

    what I had in mind was a parking garage with a smartphone app that told you which parking garages had what kind of vacancies for how much money that were in proximity to where you are.

    and so you’d find a spot for the price you know and there will be some level of security provided.

    tell me I’m wrong.. I’m willing to listen to how I might need to change my perspective on this.

  3. Ghost of Ted Dalton Avatar
    Ghost of Ted Dalton

    Great article!

  4. […] — has become very hot. A slew of start-up companies like Parkopedia and Parking Panda (profiled here) are making it easier for drivers to find parking spaces, be they located on-street, in parking […]

Leave a Reply