The “Car Sweating” Life

Cars parked on the sidewalk in Bucharest

Free or for fee, zoned or not, parking in many American cities is notoriously difficult to find. So tough so that entrepreneurs are flocking to the opportunity and designing creative ways to attack the problem. Apps, markets, and tools for reserving parking in private lots and garages abound. Haystack took things to a new level last year in Boston with the creation of its peer-to-peer exchange which monetized access to parking spaces on city streets. After City Council effectively banned the technology, they walked away from the concept.

In other countries, however, entrepreneurs of a different sort are making a living capitalizing on the management of on-street parking inventory. As cars increase in city centers built long-before the rise of the auto, the work of finding and guiding drivers toward vacant spaces is actually a staple of the informal economy.

Two Romanian researchers recently shared draft results of a new study which explores the role of parcagiiself-appointed parking attendants, in Bucharest.

Parcagii are highly visible to both the drivers and the sidewalk people who pass by. When they are spending time on the sidewalk and road, they are highly alert to spot parking spaces that are being vacated. They then position themselves there, making large swinging gestures with their hands, in order to attract drivers who cruise by seeking an empty parking spot.

The term for this continual, hawk-like hunting and flagging of parking spaces? “Car sweating.” In exchange for their efforts, parcagii receive small donations from transient or regular parkers.

(If I may sidestep for the time being the question of whether the parcagii add real value or are more of a nuisance…)

It’s informative to step back and see the similarities with what new technologies are trying to accomplish. As with Haystack, and even Task Rabbit which suggests hiring someone to wait in line at the DMV for you, entrepreneurs have found a way to exploit time and an information exchange to create faster access to public services. It’s the level of technology that varies.

Photo credit: Lisa

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