Hangzhou Techie Solves Parking Pain by Sharing the Problem
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2017-05-04 22:18:13

An amateur software developer from Hangzhou who was hard-pressed to find a parking space in his apartment building has invented his own bespoke solution, Sixth Tone’s sister publication, The Paper, reported Wednesday.

In March, the man, surnamed Le, opened a public group on social messaging app WeChat called Green Light Parking, in which he shared the location of empty parking spaces in his apartment complex. After registering, users could check the availability of parking spots and book them for 2 yuan ($0.26) per hour — a bargain, considering Le himself paid more than 500,000 yuan to buy his own parking spot in the complex.

“The government is building extra parking lots, but the progress compared with the urgency is slow,” Le told Sixth Tone. “I saw the supply-demand conflict of parking in the community based on my own experiences and on those of my friends.”

Since launching the WeChat group, Le, who works in international trading, says 105 people have signed up to rent out their parking spaces when they are not occupied.

In Hangzhou, a hub for China’s booming e-commerce industry in the eastern province of Zhejiang, and in China’s other rapidly developing cities, more people owning cars has led to some frustrating urban environments, as the growth in parking spaces has not kept pace. Some 28 million new cars were sold in China last year, and that figure is expected to hit 35 million by 2020. In 2013, Hangzhou proposed adding 30,000 new parking spaces each year, and also considered developing tower-style parking decks. It is estimated that there is one car for every two people in Hangzhou.

In an interview with The Paper, Le said he has two cars and lives in an apartment complex with a limited number of parking spots. Soon after moving to the city, he paid the equivalent of $72,500 to purchase one spot outright, yet he still often had to resort to public parking for the other vehicle. “I observed and found that residential parking spaces during the day are half empty, and at night, 20 percent of them are unused,” he said.

Le’s project has attracted local support. He’s been approached by 20 residential communities who want to learn about his software as a possible way to ease their parking woes. While the project is currently small-scale, mobile apps are trying out similar ideas in larger communities. Startups such as EasyParking, for example, help connect parking lot operators and drivers in Beijing, informing the latter of vacant spots.

State-owned China News Service said in 2015 that plans are in place to have 1.3 parking spaces per car in cities of more than 500,000 people in the future. But for now, there is still a nationwide shortage of nearly 50 million spaces.

Le, for his part, believes that by tackling the issue on a micro level, he’s making strides — albeit small ones — toward tackling a growing problem.

Contributions: Liang Chenyu; editor: Sarah O’Meara.

(Header image: A view of the parking garage at Le’s apartment building in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, March 22, 2017. IC)