Town officials have been in talks for one month with a Cranford, N.J.-based company that recruits private property owners to offer parking to commuters via a mobile app, according to First Selectman Kevin Moynihan.
Moynihan said last week that the company, called Boxcar, generally launches in towns that have train stations.
“They go to the funeral homes, the churches, the supermarkets—everything in the area around the train station—and they ask them to put their excess parking spaces into a pool, which is an online app where people go and reserve those spaces,” he told members of the Technology Advisory Committee at their inaugural meeting, held May 8 at Town Hall. “And people charge $5, $6, $7 a day depending on where the space is.”
Moynihan said the board plans to meet with the company again this week and officials have already spoken with St. Aloysius Church about making 50 spaces in its Cherry Street lot available on the Boxcar app. He added the Boxcar is currently eyeballing a total of about 150 to 200 spaces in downtown New Canaan that could be added to the app.
“So, before we go spending money on construction at the Lumberyard, do you want to see if this will somewhat address the [parking] issue?” he asked the committee, which consists of Chairman Randy Dalia, Secretary Paul Pureka, Annamari Mikkola, Mike Abbott and Jeff Platt. “The role that we’re going to play is [this]…we tell the Catholic church that they need to police their lot and they don’t want to do that. But if we do it with our own parking department gratis, then we’re accommodating the needs of our citizens.”
Dalia said that he didn’t add the Boxcar app discussions to the committee’s meeting agenda because he felt it was more of a business model issue then a technology issue and any input from the committee would be overlap.
“Boxcar and the Parking Department really have to get the business model issue sorted out and [figure out] how to deal with all of the rules,” he said.
He added, however, that he sees the committee helping the parking department improve its parking payment process in the future as a part of its digital strategy focus.
Moynihan said that his discussions with Boxcar are a good example of the ones that the committee should be facilitating with vendors to improve the town from a technological standpoint.
“If there are businesses out there that your think we could work with and partner on, that would be ideal,” he said.
The first selectman also suggested that the parking department may need assistance from the committee to improve its processes.
“Someone [asked] me, ‘Why can’t I park at Talmadge Hill after 9 ‘o clock?’ Maybe through technology we can say, “Okay, you can at least park there until 10 ‘o clock,’” he said. “So, if you want to go to New York City, you’ll have the time to do that. That may change how we operate… This is an example of a process flow, which is not technology per se, but it goes together.”
Dalia said that as the committee starts to gather ideas and develop strategies, it should also look carefully at how much (or little) of an impact it would make on the town as a whole.
“As we start to rack and stack opportunities and things that we want to prioritize, we ought to lay it up against how many people—how many citizens—are we helping,” he said.
Moynihan then encouraged residents to present their ideas and suggestions for improving the town through technology.
“You might be surprised by some of the responses you’ll get,” he told the committee.