“OMG! What the heck?” That was all I could say after reading the Time magazine article, “Strangers Crashed my Car, Ate my Food and Wore My Jeans: Tales From the Sharing Economy,” by Joel Stein. Opening your private home to strangers for a $35 meal or renting your personal vehicle to someone you’ve never met before was more than I could grasp. How did such a seemingly dangerous act become so popular? Why is this new shift from acquisition to rental in such demand? After making a number of inquiries of individuals between the ages of 25 and 35, I discovered it was more about accessing services than owning them.
Services such as Airbnb, which provides rental of housing; Vinted, which provides clothing rental; and Uber which provides taxi services, are among the popular services in the sharing economy. As I continued to read the article, I noticed that there were apps that dealt with parking, too. Rental of driveways or parking in someone’s public parking spot were common ways I was quite familiar with, but the services that allowed a driver to reserve and pay for parking before he or she reached their destination truly opened my eyes to how this next generation of commuters were thinking. The ease of getting what you want when you want it was the catalyst for such demand. How creative it is and what out-of-the-box thinking to maximize the use of possessions and plug in the social connection with it. Wake up, Boomers!
Services provided by Uber and Lyft offered the convenience of taxi-like services and provide even greater ease in moving from point “A” to “B” without the stress of driving. These two options were invading the monopolies that cab drivers once enjoyed—sort of like what the Internet did to map sales or the encyclopedia industry.
The sharing economy is more about getting the most value out of what others own as well as enhancing the experience of using it. I conveyed this information to my daughter who I assumed would also find it absurd, only to find out that she was accessing such a service to take her to the airport the very next day. I spoke with one of my administrative staffers who also confirmed that it is more about the social and convenience aspect of what these services offer.
I must admit, that while these services would never persuade me to cease using my car, it is clear that there is a creative shift of social sharing that is pushing the envelope of how we look at the future of parking as an industry. I think it is sustainable and environmentally-friendly; it also offers key indicators as to what the future of parking will look like when the next generation of parking professionals takes over. I guess the old cliché, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” has been replaced with, “I will take the experience of your toys to a whole new level.”