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Parking share scheme might work in NW Portland too, says CEO

COURTESY: CITIFYD - Pasadena has adopted Citifyd's parking share app quicker than Portland.

Citifyd, the parking-sharing app, last week got a deal with the city of Pasadena outside Los Angeles. It lets merchants with private parking spots – those tow away zones outside your chiropractor or florist – lease them to the public over their smart phone. The merchant knows whose car is where, the shopper gets good parking – and any coupons that pop up on his or her screen – and Citifyd gets 10 percent of the spend (parking and coupon).

What can our little city, with its two-crates-and-a-broomstick personal parking markers, tell a place like Pasadena about where to back up the big Buick?

You might know Citifyd (as in city-fied, rendered more like a city) as the Portland app maker company that lets you buy your Moda Center parking in advance and cruise on in just showing your phone. (And if something goes wrong, you get a text during the game.)

Citifyd’s first product was a scheme where nearby homeowners can rent out their driveway for the evening, Airbnb-style, to make some money on an otherwise redundant space. You park in Irvington, walk to the game, car’s nice and safe and you just saved $10. This peer to peer parking, or shared parking, was an innovation that came to Sohrab Vossoughi, co-founder of Citifyd and founder of innovation and design firm Ziba, when he was walking his dog past full parking lots and empty driveways.

For the Pasadena development, Citifyd had the fortune to be recommended by P3GM, also known as P3 Global Management, a company in New York that approaches municipalities to bring some of that “smart city” sizzle we’re always reading about. (“P3” is short for the buzzword public-private partnership.)

P3GM inked a contract with Pasadena in May 2016 and has been looking for a shared parking platform since then.

P3GM recommended Citifyd to Pasadena and made the announcement that the service will debut this December. The California city fathers like the idea that shared parking can “avoid the congestion and traffic that is created by people circling looking for parking, which is estimated to generate about 30% of inner city traffic.”

They also expect it will bring more people into Pasadena’s Central Business District, without costing the municipality any taxpayer money.

Sohrab Vossoughi said in a release “Through our agreement with P3GM, we are on our way to fulfill our mission of creating friction-free urban living.”

But he told the Business Tribune a more interesting story. Getting things done in Portland is getting harder.

“Things take a lot of time,” he said. This city has lots of good things but I’m really worried were going to be left behind in terms of trying new things, even just testing them.”

He was referring to trying to partner with the city to offer public parking through the Citifyd app in Northwest Portland. He felt he couldn’t get anyone to make a decision, and notes the public private partnership in Pasadena went through a lot faster.

“If it takes them forever, then our strength is going to become out weakness. Our collaborative nature, our democracy – the five mayors thing - it can also get in the way of moving forward. Because the speed of technology is much faster than a municipality can handle.’’ He’s seen other cities try out new technology quickly – such as New York City’s Alphabet/Google internet street kiosks – and he’s seem Portland adopt technology that is too old it’s almost obsolete.

He appreciates that cities have to go though an RFP procedure before spending public money. But he thinks his effort to make parking easier in Northwest, bringing back shoppers in an age of ecommerce, has fallen on deaf ears. And dealing with private businesses and homeowners is easier.

He says they are just weeks away from a deal with a Bay Area event that runs over two months in winter – he can’t say what, but the parking currently costs $40. It’s not the NFL San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium: parking around there s $60 to $80 per game. That is a good indicator of where the money is at.

“Out 10 percent is always there. We didn’t have to figure out how to make money on this one. It’s a transaction-based platform.” In Pasadena he says they can break even fairly quickly. Citifyd gets its 10 percent whether it’s on an $80 parking tab or on the 50 cents off a coffee coupon a merchant might throw into your phone. Actually, he corrects himself, they get 25 percent of transaction fees.

Vossoughi said that just as Amazon started out selling books and now does all manner of things, so Citified started out with shared parking, but not the app can be used to track riders in taxicabs.

“Our vision was always to become an urban mobility company. To look at the commute and make it easier.”

Getting the technology right is also a problem. Ziba Design has always stressed the user experience, preferably a convenient and comfortable one.

And while Pasadenans will use the system seamlessly with their local city app, in Portland you get a hot link from inside the Blazers NBA-designed app, which takes you to a download site for Citifyd. Those extra 45 seconds while outside the walled garden of an app can seem like a huge hurdle to those raised on extreme convenience.

“Young people and early adopters, will play around with it, but laggards like myself, if it’s a couple of clicks and I’m not getting what I want, I’m done! I tell my staff, don’t design for yourselves, design for me!”

It’s the user experience that creates the love, not the technology, he adds. He has found that a lot of people using the Blazers parking app are women in their forties. They don’t want the hassle of finding parking, and they want the security of a good spot.

“Technology is an enabler, but you have to create a great experience. People don’t care about technology.”

The release is attached, and a few images are included here. https://spaces.hightail.com/space/xAww3

Wifi, wifi, everywhere, nor yet a drop to drink

New York may have Alphabet kiosks, but now we finally have wifi in the MAX tunnel.

Last week Verizon Wireless and TriMet launch underground wireless service for riders at the Washington Park MAX station. It’s 4G LTE connectivity at 260 feet beneath the ground.

Other wireless service providers tried but Verizon is the first to get their gear installed. Someone must have written a good RFP response on that one.

As part of TriMet’s standard leasing agreement, the agency receives a $2,000 fee from Verizon annually.

According to TriMet, the Washington Park Station tunnel is the deepest tunnel in the United States.

Verizon is the first carrier to deploy wireless coverage at the station and aims to extend the service throughout the three-mile long Robertson Tunnel.

Who says Portland is falling behind?

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