Leaving that parking space? Auction it off
Company plans to create real-time marketplace for open parking spaces.
By Peter Valdes-Dapena, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- One of the biggest hassles of car ownership is finding a place to put it when you want to get out of it. In certain crowded parts of certain crowded cities at certain very crowded times, finding a space requires varying proportions of good luck and great patience.

But what if, instead of luck and patience, you could substitute knowledge and money? If you were fortunate enough to know that a certain person was going to pull out of a parking space on Sullivan Street near Spring Street in Downtown Manhattan at 1:20 pm you could offer to pay him, say, $10 to give you that space.

And what if you were the person with the space? You could make $10 for doing something you'd be doing anyway: getting in your car and driving away.

Well, a company called SpotScout is trying to be the broker for that transaction. Right now, it's operating on the stringiest of shoestrings. With no outside investors its handful of employees are working, as startup workers often do, on dreams of future riches.

The company's main product works with mobile devices. Registered users would be able to post the location of a parking spot they plan on leaving, as well as a price. Others could search for soon-to-be-available spaces.

If you find an available space and agree to the price, the money is withdrawn from an electronic account and held in escrow until you actually arrive and claim the spot. At that time, both parties check off that the transaction is completed and the charge goes through. (If there's a parking meter, you still have to pay that.)

While, techinically, it would be illegal to buy or sell property owned by the city, such as a parking space, SpotScout founder Andrew Rollert says his company isn't involved in anything like that.

"All anybody is selling is infromation about intentionality," he said. "All you would be selling is the information that you are intending to leave that space."

Cities should be pleased with the service, he said, because the more SpotScout users there are, the fewer people there will be causing bottlenecks as they crawl city streets looking for a space.

Eventually, Rollert hopes, SpotScout can be intergrated into satellite navigation systems.

The company will take a 15-percent cut of any transaction that takes place on the network.

Parking garages can also play, advertising their spaces on the service, Rollert said. So can those with permanent reserved spaces in their name, for example at a condo or apartment complex.

Initially, those types of users will make up most of the listings as the service rolls out in late summer or early fall, Rollert said. Trading in street-level parking spaces

Buying and selling of street level spaces will come later as more users join the system, he said. Initially, the company wants to keep things simpler without getting into the real-time churn of metered spaces.

Currently, SpotScout has 800,000 potential users across the country who have indicated interest, Rollert said.

  • Watch In The Money this Saturday at 1:00 pm or Sunday at 3:00 pm to see more about SpotScout.
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