The Airbnb of parking
Locally created app matches drivers with underutilized parking spots
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/07/2021 (443 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
While the parking lot business was on pause during the pandemic — with many of us working from home, lots were left empty — a team of Winnipeg developers was working at coming up with that industry’s version of Airbnb.
The parking business is notoriously underutilized. There are eight parking spots for every car in North America but there never seems to be a spot when and where you need it.
Josh Glow, managing director of Gryd, a young Winnipeg company that has launched a parking app pilot project in Winnipeg called GrydPark, says on average 30 per cent of downtown traffic in Canadian cities is caused by vehicles which are driving around searching for a parking spot.
While the initial Winnipeg beta test project (the GrydPark app for Winnipeg is available now for download on app stores) only has a few dozen lots in its inventory, it has the potential to open up a whole new revenue stream for property owners — and individual tenants who pay a monthly fee for a dedicated parking space.
Gryd has built a successful residential apartment marketing company with a 3D, virtual and augmented-reality service that has attracted some of the largest property managers in the country with tens of thousands of units for rent across the country.
Gryd is now in the process of leveraging its relationship with those property managers with large portfolios of buildings, to make their underutilized parking lots available for casual parking.
“We are trying to unlock these locked lots,” said Glow. “That is the essence of the product.”
The company has built an IT system that can manage the stalls, making them available when the tenants are not using their spots, and creating a new revenue stream for the property owners.
“That gives both the tenant and landlord an incentive to upload the availability of the space onto our system and we can get a rotating selection of available spots,” said Glow. “It’s like a sharing economy/Airbnb monetization model.”
The plan is to charge 20 to 30 per cent below market averages and Gryd is working with computer scientists at the University of Manitoba to be able to change pricing according to demand.
“We want to help match supply in demand conditions,” he said.
For instance the system will be able to detect and predict events like a Jets game at Canada Life Centre (formerly Bell MTS Place) and the system will send out messages to parking spot owners asking if the spot might be made available and that the minimum price has been increased.
And it’s not just apartment building parking lots Gryd is going after. It already has some churches and commercial properties whose parking lots might remain empty on off hours. Each property owner will have their own live dashboard so they can monitor the usage of the spaces.
Glow figures his timing was perfect in that the demand for parking was at an all-time low and people might be that much more inclined to try different options.
He says Gryd has built more customization options into its system than the industry has ever seen.
With Impark and Indigo, the two dominant players in the Canadian industry, you can arrange for weekly, monthly, daily or hourly rates.
With Gryd, users can book on the fly or in advance. They too can book monthly, weekly, daily or by the hour but they can also book a commuter shift or evenings and weekends.
The parking business has gone mobile already. The city’s metered spots can be paid through the PaybyPhone app and there are a number of different services out there now in the U.S.
But while PaybyPhone does allow you to pay with your phone after you have found a spot, Gryd goes one step further by actually identifying a specific spot and navigating the driver to the space via Google Maps.
In addition to his belief that the service will have a good reception, Glow is proud of potential environmental impact that it can have.
“I have read that more than 300 million litres of gasoline are consumed annually by drivers looking for a parking space,’ he said.
The company has increased its staff from about four people a year ago to 24 full-time staff in Winnipeg right now. The company is in the process of completing a fundraising round.
Glow said the plan is to be in every Canadian city by 2024.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.
Updated on Saturday, July 17, 2021 2:38 PM CDT: Amends details about revenue and fundraising.