Environment HONOURABLE MENTION #2
Work title: Sharalot
America has a parking problem. America is fighting back, and America is losing. So many heroes have fought the dragon, and so many heroes have gone down in flames. What America needs is something that can work with the dragon, use its habits, and train it to work different. To work better.
For decades, mayors and masses have pushed rules and regulations to shrink old lots and prevent new ones from paving paradise. But asphalt springs up faster than the weeds growing through it. Despite the noble and novel efforts of planners to fight the lot from top-down, the bottom of the market pushes up, and strip malls and Starbucks demand plentiful parking for every shopping day. Designers regularly overbudget parking space, planning for the most extreme-demand days, for the squalls of Black Friday, paving the country in an unplanned and inefficient overabundance of parking. Architects have offered solutions ranging from one-off designs to wildly optimistic technological innovations, without much result. Any solution, if it’s going to work, must work with, not quixotically fight, the economic and social networks dominating the landscape. It must be as easy to use as Facebook, with the physical impact of Levittown. We offer Sharalot, an online marketplace where members trade, buy or sell parking spaces on an institutional or individual level. Sharalot facilitates a more efficient redistribution of parking, and reduces the number of spaces as a whole. As users and businesses share parking lots, they need less, and land is free to redevelop in denser or greener ways. Sharalot is an app and a new form of urban infrastructure, one that changes the way people park, businesses interact, and cities evolve. Sharalot is also a lifestyle. To reach the critical volume where the market can function, membership interest is sparked by branding Sharalot as an urban lifestyle that connects users with farmer’s markets, street fairs and concerts throughout cities across the country.
The insight of Sharalot is that businesses and institutions use their parking at different times. Why should a church and a night club have two parking lots next-door? Why not have the church rent its lot at night to the dizzying dancers, raising money for the good parishioners, and saving the club owners a hefty expense? And now the empty lot can be sold and developed for a denser downtown. We launch Sharalot by suggesting these mutually beneficial partnerships in over-parked downtowns. Houston, with its grid and no-zoning, is the ideal launchpad. Once we develop a stable base, we can open the floor to the community, allowing them to rent the available spaces as well as list their own supplementary spaces. Set into motion, this choreography will continue throughout the city, shrinking lots without any government restrictions while making local businesses and citizens money. Denser cities decrease demand for personal vehicles, and Sharalot sparks the walkable transformations American cities crave.
Sharalot is viral. It starts small, an exclusive user-group hand-picked to advertise their civic-minded green-cred. Buzz builds. Are you on Sharalot? Of course! It’s so easy, aren’t you? Second-phase members may be invited by Sharalot or by existing members, however they will have to pay a small sign-up fee. Access to our database will be quick and convenient. Similar to Craigslist or eBay, Sharalot is a platform where both buyers and sellers can instigate a transaction, with a small fee levied to keep the market running. The site will be available on the web or mobile app, and will provide a searchable map that displays where parking is available near the desired destination. Sellers can research market trends in their area to determine the appropriate price for their spaces, or they can simply make their property available for whatever price that they are comfortable with. After the transaction is complete, Sharalot will collect a small percentage of the sale. With the trend-setting audience ready and waiting, street fairs and pop-up concerts rent space on the app and tap into a market looking for the next, smart way to spend their time and money. Or developers can find under-used lots and seek them out for the next mixed-use development. Civic groups can push for park conversions. We delete parking and let the users add. Sharalot cities are denser, smarter and cooler. And no mayor had to spend a dime to make them that way. That’s the kind of subtraction we can feel good about.