UB alum hopes app will help campus parking problem
While UB officials have said there are several hundred parking spaces free at any given time, students have long complained about driving from lot to lot searching for a place to park in time for class.
UB alum Andrew Mingola wants to help with the parking problem with the launch of his new app, Spot Swapper. The free app connects students looking for a place to park with students who are leaving campus, using Google Maps to display all UB parking lots.
When a student is leaving, a notification about an open spot is sent to users. On a first-come, first-serve basis, students can claim the spot and avoid blindly searching for parking.
Once a spot is claimed, only the recipient knows its location. The student leaving campus waits for the other “swapper” to arrive, ensuring no one will steal the spot. After a swap, both parties rate the experience and points are awarded or taken away if it was successful or unsuccessful, similar to a rideshare app rating system. Users with more points are more likely to receive a notification about an opening spot in the future as a way to encourage students who are leaving campus to use the app.
Last year, Mingola and two classmates created a similar model under the name Park By Karma. They released the app for Android, but never released it for iOS. Between graduation and low download rates, the effort fell apart.
Mingola said he never gave up hope for the idea. Even after graduating he still wanted to take a crack at solving UB’s parking problem.
“When the group dissolved, that was the end of the group interest, but my interest was still there,” Mingola said. “This project is disjointed and new from the old one, but shares the same goal. Everything else is different from the old app.”
He began developing the app the summer after graduation. He taught himself the necessary code to create the app on Apple devices with the goal of a larger audience. The app is currently on the App Store and Google Play store and will launch at UB on April 16.
Mingola said part of the last app’s downfall stemmed from a lack of student interest. He’s worried not enough students will know about the app since he hasn’t been on campus to advertise it.
He hopes to expand to other Buffalo college campuses, but is taking it one step at a time.
“I’m a little bit worried because I haven’t been at UB to test everything out,” Mingola said. “I know everything works as far as the app, I just haven’t done an actual test with students’ vehicles. Hopefully, like how Uber started out in San Francisco, it’ll gain enough traction to expand slowly, but surely.”
Some students said they are excited, but skeptical about the app. Many said they like the possibility of a guaranteed parking spot, but feel that it’s too “gimmicky.”
David Corradi, a sophomore electrical engineering major, said he doesn’t drive to campus, partly because he doesn’t want to deal with parking. He said he appreciates a possible solution to overcrowded parking lots, but doesn’t think students will go out of their way to use the app.
“It seems like a bit of a hassle. A lot of times people are just trying to leave campus and not trying to wait on someone else,” Corradi said. “He needs a better way to incentivize it for students. Friends can just text each other when they’re coming and going.”
Adam Bitondo, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, said if the app didn’t work before, it probably won’t catch on now.
Some students said they would prefer UB build additional lots, a parking garage or restructure parking permits to allow students to park in more lots.
Mingola said he is happy his app is finally ready for student use. He plans to be on campus April 16 to help spread the word about Spot Swapper.
“Besides website hosting costs, I did everything myself. It’s basically my baby,” Mingola said. “I really hope students like it as much as I do. I think if enough students pick up on it, the app could absolutely benefit students who hate dealing with parking.”
Max Kalnitz is a news editor and can be reached at email@example.com