SAN JOSE, Calif. — Finding a parking spot can be hectic, stressful and frustrating. For commuters, students and families, circling for parking can turn a small trip into a small disaster.
“Parking has been always a nightmare,” said Hooman Bolandi.
That’s why he helped out Sameer Saran, a San Jose State University graduate, create an app to help that anxiety and frustration.
They built an app called ParkStash.
The concept came to Sameer Saran after his first day of school at SJSU started with stress. He spent nearly $200 for a campus parking permit, but still had trouble finding a spot.
“It took me 30 minutes to find one space in their garages, and when I talked to the students nearby, they literally came at 6 a.m. in the morning, slept in their car for two hours, and then went to the classes,” Saran said. “I said that, ‘Hey, Sameer, this cannot be your life. you need to find a solution.’”
So, he entered an idea to make parking easier into a college entrepreneurship competition. The first time, he didn’t win. But, he worked on the concept until the next year, and he won. That second idea he had was the ParkStash app, and it’s how he and Hooman Bolandi, one of the judges of the competition, started working together.
“What we built, is the AirBnB of car parking,” said Saran.
“Our mission is about improving quality of life and environment,” said Bolandi.
Here’s how it works: local businesses, apartment complexes, churches, even homeowners can rent out their parking spots or driveways.
The driver can choose to park for as little as an hour or reserve the spot for weeks or months at a time.
Spots have reviews and amenities listed, so you can find the safest, most convenient one.
The app also comes with enforcement capabilities, so homeowners and businesses can see if a car has paid to park in their spot or not. The app allows you to scan a license plate, which will be able to check the app database to make sure people aren’t stealing free parking.
Additionally, the app has a feature to pay citations.
“Now, I can come here and park in this parking space without any headache, without any stress,” said Saran, standing in a church parking lot that offers spaces near San Jose State University. “By the way, it's cheaper than the meters. It's a dollar and our meters are two bucks an hour.”
The spaces are helping churches and family-owned businesses earn some extra cash for parking spaces that were just sitting empty. It helped Oscar Arguello’s property management company make it through the pandemic.
“Before, we were losing $1,000 to $1500 monthly. Now, we are earning that amount of money without basically doing nothing,” Arguello said.
It’s also giving students rushing to class some peace of mind.
“I was almost crying one day thinking that I may have to miss the class, miss an important lecture,” said graduate student Fabiha Roshni Khan.
With parking reserved in advance, Kahn can focus more on her electrical engineering degree and less on her driving.
“This is definitely reducing my stress and anxiety and on the other side, increasing my productivity. I feel like I'm part of a local community solution,” she said.
ParkStash also helps students see the minute-by-minute capacity of the on-campus parking garages. Its partnership with San Jose State University has helped keep major traffic jams from happening as people enter the campus.
“We have about 35,000 students in any given day,” said Charlie Faas, the CFO at SJSU. “The capacity for those garages is way less than all the people that are coming in.”
Faas said this partnership is smart for students and the environment.
“It gets people to their parking faster. Now, when people know the Fourth Street garage is full and the Tenth Street garage is open, they can redirect and go directly there. The circling stops, the CO2 emissions come way down.”
Faas said the campus Office of Sustainability reports to him, and it is pleased to see fewer students wasting time and emissions circling campus looking for parking.
Eric Cross manages the parking services at SJSU. He said this app is helping faculty find parking, too.
“You could easily be late for or miss a class,” said Cross of how long students and faculty spend looking for parking. “If that's occurring for a student is a tragedy in itself. However, if that's a faculty member, you've now impacted as many as, you know, 40 to 100 students who are depending on this person to impart on them the lessons that they're going to need for graduation.”
Cross said the app has made a huge difference for large events like commencement as well.
“It just has really been a game-changer for us," Cross said.
What started as one student with a dream has now turned into a nationwide enterprise. Cities across the U.S. and Canada are now using this technology.
Saran and Bolandi are working to start partnerships with more universities, businesses and sports stadiums across the country. They already have thousands of users, but one day, they hope everyone in the nation will know about ParkStash.
“It brings a smile to my face every single day now because we have had a lot of sacrifices going into these past three years, and I, especially after the pandemic, we were so low you wouldn't believe it,” said Saran “I mean, revenue just went down to nothing. But still, we kept on going because me, Hooman and the entire ParkStash team know one thing, one thing that we don't quit. We would never quit no matter what happens.”
In Canada, Saran and Bolandi have partnered with one city to create safe parking spaces for truck drivers. Thousands of truck drivers in the U.S. and Canada do not park in a safe space every night to sleep. ParkStash is creating those spaces for drivers.
The ParkStash team also partnered with the Woodward Dream Cruise in Michigan to create a park and ride system for the car cruise. They said visitors enjoyed the ParkStash system so much, the Dream Cruise team is already planning to partner again with them next year as well.
Faas said the success of ParkStash is inspiring.
“It's been really rewarding to have someone like Sameer come in and win a competition, you know, as a student. It all started here at San Jose State, within the business school, within working in a competition. And you want to encourage people to take risks, to develop new technologies to embrace what a problem is and go solve it. This is what they did. And so it's really rewarding to see them succeed.”