Curbing the parking space blues

Feb 3, 2008

ParkingCarma, a new Kettering co-op partner in Flint, makes finding a parking space a Zen experience.

Ah, karma. An enlightening concept based on the ideas that “What comes around goes around,” and “Do onto others what you would have them do onto you.” In other words - you get what you put in and people get what they deserve.

Indeed, it seems we can apply the concept of karma to just about everything in life. And certainly karma can come into play when attempting to find a parking space in a crowded downtown street.

How many times have we spotted a parking space, put our blinker on to signal our intent, only to have some schlep come along and dart into that very space, even though it’s clear we were there first?

But now a new Kettering cooperative education partner is working to change this scenario to provide a more efficient, practical and environmentally friendly way to erase the parking karma blues.

ParkingCarma, originally headquartered in Emeryville, Calif., opened an office in Flint,Mich., in March 2007 to help improve the efficiency of finding a parking space within the Flint city limits. They currently employ five Kettering students as co-op employees.

The organization is a national firm that specializes in improving the efficiency of finding a parking space in the major metropolitan areas throughout theU.S.The organization uses a patented system called SmartParking Information Network (SPIN).

This system enables SmartParking and other devices through the use of wireless sensors that interface to gather, organize, analyze and process parking information from off-street parking facilities, and then distribute this information to drivers and local organizations in a convenient, easy-to-use manner. 

Launched in 2001, ParkingCarma’s innovative SmartParking technology allows drivers to determine the real-time availability of parking spaces from their cars, homes or offices.

SPIN also provides numerous benefits to clients and customers. For example, ParkingCarma can drive more and more cars to lot owners, which increases revenue while providing those parking customers a new and valuable service. Thus, instead of competing with parking lots, ParkingCarma enhances the service offerings of lots by presenting the parking area and space availability to the members of ParkingCarma.

In addition, with large cities suffering congestion, gridlock and increased pollution due to vehicles driving around searching for spots, ParkingCarma can quickly and efficiently lead drivers to known available parking spaces using real-time information technology solutions. These benefits also give city planners viable, working solutions when it comes to developing parking assets and infrastructures in a large metropolitan area. Most importantly, with drivers taking less time to locate a space means, less vehicle pollution is entering the atmosphere.

For Amada Marcotte, operations manager at the Flint,Mich., facility, hiring their first Kettering cooperative education students in August 2007 made good sense.

“We are a small start-up company and we thought it would be a mutually beneficial relationship: the co-ops receive a multi-faceted experience of a new business and we receive quality people who can grow with the company,” she explained.

The Kettering co-op employees are Tony Stanley of Owosso, Mich.; Robert Sunshine of Macomb, Mich.; Jarrel Williams of Grand Blanc, Mich.; James Glover of Detroit, Mich.; and Gavin Gage, of Clare, Mich.

Over the last several months, they have helped with the planning of a massive data collection campaign and have assisted by setting up the phone systems and trouble-shooting the computer systems in the Flint office.

“Since we are relatively small, the addition of the Kettering co-op students has enabled company executives to focus on business matters as well as increased our productivity through new ideas and sheer numbers of people,” Marcotte said.

Stanley, who is majoring in Electrical Engineering, said that the idea of ParkingCarma is “genius. I really think the future is going to depend on things like reserving parking before you leave your house.”

And as far as attending an institution like Kettering that requires students to engage in professional cooperative work assignments, he said the experience “is awesome. It’s really nice to have three months off to make money, earn college credit and receive on- the-job training.”

Sunshine, who is majoring in Business, agreed. “I really like working at ParkingCarma because of the enthusiasm in our office,” he said. “There’s nothing better than being able to get along with the people you work with,” he added.

Sunshine also believes that Kettering’s cooperative education program is perfect for gaining important work experience before graduating from college.

“Kettering is a small school, which, for me, is great because it means you can have more interaction with the teachers. This is very important in my opinion, because it ensures that you can get an understanding of the material professors teach. Plus, it’s a very strong school when it comes to the level of knowledge and information in your core classes,” he said.

“This is the first time we have worked with co-op students and we’re pleased with their performance,” Marcotte said. “The level of experience varies from student to student, and we are impressed with their willingness to take on tasks that may be unfamiliar or outside of their intended concentrations,” she added.

In the future, Marcotte explained that as the company grows, ParkingCarma will provide more opportunity for students to work on programming, infrastructure technology, engineering and project management.

To learn more about ParkingCarma Inc., visit the company’s website at www.parkingcarma.com.

Written by Gary J. Erwin
810.762.9538
gerwin@kettering.edu