Parking is currently undergoing two revolutions: the rise of parking apps and a reassessment of the need for so much parking space. Apps like EasyPark, CellOPark, and PayStay offer drivers the convenience of pay-as-you-go parking adjusted to the minute and location through a smartphone app. These apps benefit drivers by avoiding the hassle of meters and overpaid tickets, while parking operators gain easy-to-monitor databases. However, it is important to consider who is behind these apps and whether they provide a good bargain.
Parking apps have been around since the 2000s, with the Australian market experiencing significant growth in the last five years. Some popular apps include EasyPark, CellOPark, PayStay, and the government-backed app Park’nPay. EasyPark, owned by private equity firm Vitruvian Partners, has strategically expanded its services throughout cities in Australia. On the other hand, CellOPark, an Australian-headquartered company, services over 75% of Australian universities with its parking app.
While app providers deserve payment for their services, it is crucial to assess the deals they strike beyond convenience. Parking apps collect detailed information on people and their movements, raising privacy concerns. Additionally, there should be a thorough evaluation of the value for money provided by these apps, as they cut into public revenue without significantly reducing costs. Councils and campuses must justify the trade-off between paying app providers and investing in public amenities or supporting core business.
In addition to financial and privacy implications, there is a fundamental matter to consider. Parking apps have a vested interest in maintaining an abundance of parking spaces since it is their core business. However, there is a growing movement to reassess the sacrifices made for parking in terms of economic and environmental impact. Cities need to think beyond parking apps and consider long-term solutions for rescuing and reimagining urban spaces.
Parking has become a primal and paradoxical issue. Drivers feel entitled to convenient and free parking right at their destination, leading to a constant demand for more parking spaces. Cities have prioritized parking over wetlands, parklands, housing, and public amenities. While parking apps may seem like a solution, they actually reinforce the status quo and prioritize parking over people and places. This perpetuates the cycle of building more parking spaces and downloading more apps, making cities less livable.
In conclusion, it is important to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the financial, privacy, access, and inclusion implications of adopting parking apps. Open competition between apps should be encouraged to prevent underhanded dealings. Moreover, cities need to move beyond parking apps and reconsider the excessive amount of space dedicated to parking in order to create more sustainable and livable urban environments.