Finding affordable parking around the University of Arizona campus is often difficult for students and faculty members who drive to campus. Between the high costs of garage or lot parking at the UA and the city’s regulation of parking permits and time limits in the downtown area, driving on a budget can look grim.
But with the advent of AirGarage, a new affordable-parking app that has recently launched at the University of Arizona, students and faculty are being offered the option to rent parking spaces from homeowners and businesses near campus instead of paying for parking permits and higher garage fees.
AirGarage has partnered with several lots that surroud campus: Grace Tucson, UA Hillel, the Little Chapel of All Nations and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
“I have recommended it to students who drive to campus and normally park in garage spaces — it is more convenient and cheaper to use an AirGarage than a campus garage,” said UA sophomore Haley Hart. “Which is super important for college students on a budget.”
AirGarage first began when co-founders Jonathan Barkl and Scott Fitsimones met at Arizona State University. They were forced to jump hurdles with the campus’ parking prices and policies, but as like-minded business students, they decided to do something about it.
“We were pretty frustrated with our campus’ parking monopoly and high prices,” Barkl said.
Barkl and Fitsimones went door to door in search of homeowners near campus with unused parking spaces who would let them park in their driveway for a little extra cash.
They got such great deals on parking that their friends wanted to reap the rewards of their tenacity, and Barkl and Fitsimones were happy to oblige. They said they saw it as a business opportunity.
They made a simple spreadsheet connecting their friends with homeowners in the area renting out parking spaces and built a website, SellMyDriveway.com, to open this money-saving opportunity to other students.
This was the first iteration of a grander concept.
Last summer, Barkl, Fitsimones and recent ASU graduate Chelsea Border founded AirGarage — an app that links homeowners and businesses with people looking for affordable parking rates.
“We all know how expensive parking on campus can be, and it is a huge burden felt by anyone who has parked a car on campus,” Border said.
So far, they have helped park around 30,000 cars in Tempe and Tucson, Border said.
The app was founded from the discovery of a more prolific business opportunity at churches and businesses near campus.
“This first iteration of our startup opened our eyes to the vast amount of real estate in our cities that sits underutilized because of high transaction costs,” Barkl said. “We realized that lowering the barrier to using these spaces for a variety of activities could generate new revenue streams and revitalize the area.”
Many churches and businesses whose lots remain empty the vast majority of the time are not in the business of renting out their empty space — for good reason.
Churches and businesses hardly have the time or manpower to regulate their parking lots, Barkl said, and when they have tried, it rarely worked well.
“They were desperate,” Border said. “Students were parking illegally, lot attendants were stealing and quitting unexpectedly and staff members were stressing about their parking lots instead of focusing on their church or business.”
It is easier for churches and businesses to block off their parking lots with chains and tire spikes and plaster their walls with “No Parking — Tow Away Zone” signs. The co-founders sought to change that.
AirGarage is currently working with churches and businesses to rent out their unused parking spaces to student drivers. It offers them the ability to adjust the number of spaces available during services and events remotely while lowering transactions costs and not taking on the property management burden.
“Our software eliminates the need for expensive parking machines and unreliable lot attendants,” Border said. “We handle advertisement, payment and enforcement so churches and businesses can focus on their customers, not on running a parking lot.”
By helping these churches and businesses organize their lots and earn money while doing it, AirGarage simultaneously ensures lowered cost of parking for students.
“We’re helping students find affordable parking, and we are equally excited to help churches, hillels, hotels and small businesses boost their funding,” Border said. “It’s definitely a win-win for both sides.”
To regulate those lots, AirGarage users can join the “Space Force” — a game-like crowdsourcing enforcement feature through which, by scanning license plates in the lots you park in and ensuring everyone is using the app correctly, users can earn free parking.
“We have a squadron of enforcers who can compete with one another to get the highest score for the week,” Barkl said. “By crowdsourcing enforcement, we’re able to lower the cost for our lot owners and bring more parking options online.”
The co-founders’ long-term vision is to turn single-tenant, single-use parking spaces into multi-use, multi-tenant spaces by renting space to food-truck entrepreneurs and beginning discussions with scooter companies to offer them scooter docking.
“With rising trends in personal mobility such as electric scooters, shared bikes and self-driving cars, we see a shift in the way people will need to be transported,” Border said. “We want to be the ones leading that.”
According to Border, AirGarage is hoping to expand out of Arizona after setting up more lots in Tucson. They are looking towards introducing UC-Berkeley to AirGarage soon enough.
“We see this model working at universities across the country,” Barkl said. “We have had students reach out to us from around the U.S. telling us they wish AirGarage was available at their schools.”
Students can download the app on appstores and see current parking options and take advantage of the $10 promo codes AirGarage is offering to new users in honor of the launch at the UA. Use “DailyWildcat” in the promo section of the app to be used in any of the 200 spaces near the UA.
Editors note: The Daily Wildcat is in no way affiliated with AirGarage and were not previously notified about the use of our name in the promotion code.
Follow Amber Soland on Twitter