By Rachel Bovey.
Whether an extra bedroom or empty seat in your car, unused space forms the backbone of the “sharing (for profit) economy.” But while certain home- and ride-shares spent 2014 making billions and trending so high on the SEO-meter that the term “Uber Fatigue” now exists, one area that seems built for this capitalistic repurposing is still surprisingly under-hyped: parking.
In many cities, parking lots — both residential and commercial — are the definition of underutilized space. As one database I’ve covered details, even the war-on-cars Bay Area is home to acres of asphalt with everyday vacancies. Of the 68 condo and apartment buildings studied for the TransForm project, around 31 percent of parking spots were empty — an estimated value of $139 million in wasted construction costs.
And San Francisco isn’t alone. In his paper “The High Cost of Free Parking” (predecessor to a book of the same title), UCLA professor Donald Shoup shows that planners have historically based minimum parking requirements on suburban locations with little transit, and then, often, rounded up. Many zoning mandates, even in dense areas, are still built on the assumption of a two-car household — resulting in figures like the ones cited by TransForm.
In the language of startups, this is a system ripe for disruption. And for some companies, it’s also a system that could foster dozens of short-term, curbside rentals in the style of Airbnb.