Israeli entrepreneurs seek to alleviate Tel Aviv's parking woes

At any point in time, 30 percent of Tel Aviv residents are searching for a parking spot. Two Israelis have found a way to open up private parking to desperate drivers.

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    Gev Rotem (l.) and Ilan Blum, creators of Parkpool.
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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

“Ask any Tel Aviv resident what the biggest hassle with this city is and they’ll tell you, first, finding parking and, second, the extortionate house prices.”

So say Gev Rotem and Ilan Blum, two entrepreneurs in their early 30s who may well be on their way to alleviating one of Tel Aviv’s perennial hassles. The two friends are currently piloting a new start-up called Parkpool, a system that connects private parking owners with parking seekers.

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The idea is simple. Many private parking lots in the city are unused during working hours, while business-owned ones are free at night. However, at all hours of the day you will find people driving around Tel Aviv at creeping speeds on the lookout for parking spaces. Through Parkpool, a smart-phone application backed up by a call center, car owners can track down vacant registered lots.

With a shortage in parking spaces in Tel Aviv and an average of 30 minutes’ search time for parking, Parkpool offers a straight-forward solution to the biggest source of aggravation in the congested city.

“In Tel Aviv, if you walk around with keys in your hand, someone is bound to stop their car, wind down the window, and ask: ‘Are you about to leave a parking space?’” says Mr. Rotem. Indeed, the look on people’s faces when they find a white-and-blue-striped parking spot is like that of someone who has just won a million dollars.

It is not uncommon for Tel Avivis to cancel meetings and social gatherings because of a lack of parking, and people often avoid coming into the city altogether. But due to poor public transport, Tel Avivis are still dependent on their cars and most simply have to contend with the frustrating waits or park illegally. This carries the risk of heavy fines (between 100 and 1,000 new Israeli shekels, or $30 to $300) or being towed.

Although the lack of parking is particularly severe in Tel Aviv – on average, at any given time, 30 percent of drivers are searching for parking – it is a problem faced by all major cities. Rotem and Mr. Blum claim that Parkpool can easily be deployed in every urban center in the world. With seven other cities in Israel, Europe, and the United States having expressed interest in the solution so far, this new Israeli start-up may be hitting your streets soon.

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