Starting Sunday, Oliver Bleuer will give Montrealers the gift of time.
A chartered accountant and a consultant in workforce optimization, Bleuer is launching an app that will allow drivers to see if there is time already paid up on their parking meters that has not been used — if the driver that left also uses the app.
Since the new credit-card enabled parking meters replaced the old coin-operated ones about a decade ago, Montrealers have complained about the fact that the city is double dipping: getting money from parking users who leave early, and from those who park before the previous parking time expires. In 2009, a citizens committee even tried to put political pressure on the mayor to change the parking policy to no avail.
But Bleuer says technology will now let people subvert the political process and could save hundreds of people money.
His new app, GetPrkd, will launch at 4:20 p.m. on Sunday.
It works like this: a motorist who leaves his or her parking spot before the time paid on the meter is up takes picture, and uploads it to the app. The next person to park then checks the app to see if the spot in question has time left.
Bleuer said many drivers already leave their unfulfilled parking meter stubs within the crack of the meters themselves for the next person. This is a way to extend the courtesy electronically.
“You take a quick picture, and you leave it there; you have literally left it in the electronic crack,” Bleuer said.
The app won’t direct people to specific spots, but it will rather tell people if the spot where they are parked still has time left.
“Most people are not going to look for a spot with money in it, because in downtown Montreal, if you find a spot, you’re not going to move,” Bleuer said. “If you’re already in a spot, and you know there’s five dollars left across the street, you’re not going to try to get there, because the spot can be gone in the next second.”
Those using the app will see all the pictures taken in an area of 1,000 square metres, displayed from newest to oldest. Registered users will see the pictures taken within 100 metres.
“We only keep the spots live for 10 minutes, because we know that after 10 minutes, the spot is probably expired,” Bleuer said.
Sophie Charette, a spokesperson for Stationnement de Montréal, the company that manages parking for the city, said she had no specific reaction about the app.
“Generally, we encourage people to pay for the spots where they park,” Charette said. “Let’s let him launch the app, and we’ll see what reaction it gets.”
Bleuer, who has for years worked in the business community, said he’s not launching the app as a way to reap a personal fortune. In fact, he’s giving back half of the revenue he collects to local charities.
“If McGill, for instance, promotes it to their local student population, I give them 50 per cent of the revenue from within a certain geographic area, and I give the banner to McGill for mobile advertising within a certain geographical area,” Bleuer said.
Bleuer said the app will allow him to create other applications using the same general platform. He already envisions creating an app to let people take pictures of potholes tagged with their GPS co-ordinates and send them to the city. He is also in the process of creating an app to let people take pictures of digital signs at hospital waiting rooms, so that when someone gets a number and is told to wait, he or she can go away and check the app periodically to see the most recent number being served.
Bleuer said he hopes that hospitals will help promote that app, because it will encourage people to leave the waiting room, and then visit other parts of the hospital, where they may spend money.