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This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...

Thinking Beyond Parking with the Spotter Parking App

Think of all the affordable housing we could build between existing houses if we worked out the right incentives.Think of the protected bike lanes, bus lanes, pedestrian spaces, and green space we can add by optimizing our use of parking.
The Spotter Parking App was created right here in Providence, and can help you find a parking spot. How does it work? If you have a driveway, you can rent it during times when you're not around for $1 an hour. If you need a parking spot, you can use the app to find people who are renting their driveways, So far, 80 people are using it on the East Side, and the company hopes to facilitate spot-sharing all over the state. You can read more about it at RI Future.

Here are some questions I still have about the app.

Can We Use Spotter to Help Use On-Street Spaces Better?

There are places in the city that are totally covered in parking lots, but I chose a block out of the East Side that's actually fairly moderate. You can see there is lots of tree cover, fairly consistent housing up and down the block. And yet if you look closer, you'll see that there's an absolutely gaping amount of parking off street. And a lot of it is empty.  Can a street like this get protected bike lanes a lot easier if Spotter helps people see and utilize these spots?

Mobile Homes & Tiny Houses

Tiny houses: A way to add affordable housing,
especially for students, who might otherwise
displace people in need of larger housing units.
At the Spotter rate, parking a tiny house on someone's driveway would cost $730/month in land rent*. The spaces we're using to park cars (and as Spotter points out, probably often leaving empty) are also available for new housing. There's an extent to which I hope to see people doing creative housing things with driveways with or without city support, but we also need to think as a city about how we can create a land tax of some kind, and use that to lower property taxes. That way we're creating an incentive for people to use this vacant land for things other than cars. People who use land space to provide housing are being rewarded.

I kind of doubt that all areas of the city are going to be able to command a $1/hour parking rate, because there are lots and lots of spaces on the street everyday where parking is free. But perhaps that information about where parking isn't that useful can help to guide us about where housing would be better. Or green space. . . Or whatever. . . 

$1 an hour times 24 hours a day, times 365 days a year, divided by 12 to get a monthly rent of 730.

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