New app for free curbside parking designed with Hyde Parkers in mind

Hyde Park residents know all too well the scenario of driving around the neighborhood multiple times in an attempt to find that one, open curbside parking spot. It’s become a daily routine for the lives of city drivers, and a new app is trying to change that.

Manos Chatzopoulos, a theoretical Astrophysicist at the University of Chicago (U. of C.), is the CEO and co-founder of the app ParkZen. The app is centered around the idea to make free, curbside street parking spots easier to find based on simple data.

Chatzopoulos said when he moved to Hyde Park himself that he had the same routine of driving around for 15 to 20 minutes to find a parking spot, and he’s not the only one. According to a 2011 IBM Global Parking Survey, 60 percent of drivers have decided against an activity because they couldn’t find parking.

To get an idea of more local struggles, Chatzopoulos took to the streets to ask over 120 individual Hyde Parkers about their main problems and strategies they use to park in the neighborhood.

“The main problem is that they don’t have an idea of when and where parking becomes available,” Chatzopoulos said. “Some people even take risks to park illegally because they get so frustrated with driving around in circles that they would pay that $60 fine.”

Chatzopoulos also found that the demand for parking is higher in the morning when people are getting to work, at lunchtime and between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. when people are getting home from work.

Through his own algorithm and with the help of U. of C. computer scientist student and ParkZen co-founder, Zachary Jenkins, they were able to create a user friendly app that uses a simple map to show where the parking spots in the neighborhood are available, and how long they have been available.

Chatzopoulos said the technology in smart phones collects data based on user motions so that they can distinguish user activity when an app user gets in their car and drives off.

The app is pretty simple: recently open curbside spots appear on a map that says how many minutes the spot has been available, the user taps on the spot to get directions to it, the user parks their car and ParkZen automatically saves the car’s location so the user won’t forget where they parked.

Chatzopoulos said they also plan on adding street cleaning notifications on the app that send users a push notification on their phone about street cleaning dates in advance so users have the chance to move their car without getting a ticket.

ParkZen is one of 30 finalists in the University of Chicago Booth School of Business New Venture Challenge for start-up companies hoping to make it big. For Chatzopoulos and his team, however, their goal isn’t about money, rather, it’s about getting users.

“We have about 80 users right now, most of which are Hyde Park residents, in the three weeks that we have soft launched,” Chatzopoulos said. “Right now we are focusing on growing a user base because more users means more data which means more parking spots.”

The app will be officially launched sometime between May 5 and May 10 and is free to download on the App Store for iPhone users.


[Via: Hyde Park Herald]

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