The app that can fix Sydney's parking problem

Article3 min09 May 2016By Tim Barlass - originally published by The Sydney Morning Herald on 9 May 2015 .

You are circling the CBD looking for a parking space. The kids are whingeing and you are going to miss the beginning of the movie or show. It's a challenging start to an evening out.  

The next day you are at work and have to keep nipping out to move the car every couple of hours to avoid getting a ticket.

If you're one of the many thousands of drivers who've found themselves in the above positions, don't worry. There may be some light at the end of the tunnel for Sydney's parking nightmare, with plans for more smart parking solutions on the horizon.

A study on parking strategy released by the NRMA before the state election called on the government to work with the private sector to develop innovative smartphone technology to make existing spaces accessible "at a fraction of the cost" of traditional parking, which can cost $123,000 per space to create.

The report showed a growing number of councils are making more than a million dollars a year in parking-fine revenue, which they don't even have to spend on improving parking. Marrickville had the biggest jump in parking-fine revenue, with an increase of 37per cent from 2012-13 to 2013-14, the report shows.

Divvy is unlocking under-utilised spaces in commercial buildings and gives drivers and tenants exclusive access to those spaces at the touch of a button.

On Friday, Natalie Stathis parked her BMW convertible in a car park in an office building in George Street in a space that costs her $420 a month and which she reckons is a monthly saving of up to $650.

She found the place through parking company Divvy, which negotiates the use of car spaces in office blocks that would otherwise stand vacant, and takes a percentage of the rent.

Ms Stathis, a personal assistant, said: "I don't even know whose building it is, but it's cheaper, easier and hassle free. The spaces were left over so they might as well be used."

It is a business model Divvy founder and chief executive Nick Austin believes could get between 3,500 and 5,000 parked cars off the streets of Sydney's CBD and cut congestion by 30 per cent. His company already matches motorists to homeowners with driveways or garage spaces they are happy to let out in a process known as peer-to-peer parking.

He is ready to launch an app that will extend the program to vacant car spaces in office blocks.

"Typical traditional methods have failed," he said. "There is a lack of transparency and it is very inefficient. This is about providing a more sustainable solution by making better use of parking that is already built. This prevents people from having to drive around looking for a space, causing congestion and wasting time. The app we are working on will facilitate on-the-go, on-demand, ticketless and cashless parking."

He said getting vehicles away from street parking would free lanes for more bicycles and help improve traffic flow. It is the sort of system the NRMA believes is the future, with smartphone technology likely to be able to show what on-street parking is available.

The existing City of Perth app lets a driver know exactly how many spots, or "bays", are available in 12 of Perth's biggest car parks.

Parkhound, a free app, available in several cities, uses the driver's location to identify and display the prices of nearby parking spots and also allows a motorist to book a parking space from other users who have listed their space on the app.

NRMA president Kyle Loades welcomed the development but said the report focused on other areas for change. He highlighted the need for councils to follow the lead of Parramatta and Hurstville, which allow motorists to request a review of an infringement notice without having to go to the State Debt Recovery Office.

The report states: "Since Parramatta City Council introduced the internal review process in 2011, parking fine revenue collected by the council was reduced by 35 per cent."

"We want a fairer system and a review panel on every council," Mr Loades said.

A Transport for NSW spokesman said the Updated NSW State Infrastructure Strategy released last November identified opportunities to make smarter use of the state's roads.

"This includes smartphone apps, on-road Variable Message Signs and smart parking technologies that provide real-time information about available parking spaces, making searches for parking easier.”

The article represents the views of the author only and not those of Dexus.

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