The statistics on parking are beyond depressing: People spend an average of 18 to 20 minutes worldwide looking for parking and 30% of congestion is due to people looking for parking. And the parking meter? It hasn’t had any dramatic upgrades since it was introduced in 1935 (with the exception of digital readings and pay by credit card). All that congestion leads to aggravated drivers, businesses missing out on potential customers who drive away in frustration, and lots of air pollution.
Streetline, a startup that we last covered in 2010, wants to make it so that the next generation laughs when we tell them about the hours we spent on a weekly basis searching for parking. Now the company has a $25 million credit line from Citi to make its dreams come true.
When we first covered Streetline, the startup was in the middle of a pilot test of its Parker app in Los Angeles. The app leverages Streetline’s low-power wireless sensors (they’re embedded in parking spaces) to detect when vehicles are in parking spots. From there, Parker can tell you how many spots are available in a given neighborhood—and a lot more.
In addition to finding open parking spaces on the street (and offering information on pricing, hours, time limits, and whether the spots takes credit cards), Parker now offers real-time occupancy information for garages that have signed up with the service. And users can even reserve and pay for parking spots in advance through participating garages. "It’s like the Open Table of parking," says Streetline CMO Kelly Schwager.
In the future, users will be able to pay parking meters with their phones—no more searching for coins. Also coming up: voice commands and filters for handicap spots and EV charging. Users can already see how much parking spaces cost in the app, setting the stage for cities to implement dynamic pricing. Eventually, Parker’s services will be integrated directly into in-car navigational systems.
Designed for parking providers (i.e. garage owners, universities, airports, cities), this web-based platform allows users to provide information on the number of parking spots available, designate certain parking spots for reservations, send out discounts to Parker users to fill empty spots, and push out alerts. A university, for example, might want to alert people on campus that a certain parking garage will be closed for commencement. Providers can sign up for free, but premium services cost $99 per garage per month.
This is the platform that cities use. It contains everything from the sensors themselves to analytics, and costs between $20 and $30 per parking space per month. Cities can see everything that people using Parker can see, plus things like average hourly parking space occupancy, number of parking citations in any given neighborhood, and more. Soon, users will be able to look at occupancy down to the parking space level (right now they can only see the block level).
Streetline already has deployments in California, Indianapolis, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Now the company is setting its sights on Europe. In the meantime, the $25 million Citi credit line means that Streetline can charge cities by the month instead of upfront—something that could speed up deployment here in the U.S.
Not every city is amenable to taking on Streetline’s sensors. San Francisco is building its own sensor network and app for drivers—but unlike with Streetline, the app won’t work outside city limits. CEO Zia Yusuf is confident in Streetline’s prospects. "I can genuinely say that we don’t have any competitors at this point," he says.