Ah, the struggles of commuter life.
You know, the time-consuming process of gassing up the car, hitting the road and battling rush-hour traffic, only to reach your destination and have to hunt for parking.
We’ve all been there.
A recent study revealed that motorists waste about 100 hours a year looking for a parking space, which accounts for one-third of city traffic. What’s more, the excess vehicle miles traveled in search of parking has a widespread impact on the environment and increases driver frustration.
Students in Ying Wu College of Computing (YWCC) have developed an app that enhances the parking experience for Highlanders who commute to campus.
It’s called Park NJIT: The comprehensive, Android-based app gives commuters the ability to know in real time the best place to park on and around campus, allowing motorists to make informed decisions before leaving the house.
Computer science student Arian Safaie-Farahani, human-computer interaction student Danielle Tavella and web and information systems student Kevin Wildermuth created Park NJIT as part of a project for a capstone course, which culminated in a Capstone Showcase event last semester.
“We tried to alleviate some of the parking frustrations a lot of the commuter students have,” said Tavella, who served as the user experience designer and researcher on the project. “We wanted to build on NJIT’s existing parking website to empower students with the necessary information to start their day off right.”
To identify user needs and parking patterns, the multidisciplinary team conducted field research, interviews with public safety officers, think-aloud protocols and student surveys.
“We found that the afternoon students at NJIT rated their overall parking experience 1.3 out of 5,” said Tavella. “About 90 percent of the students we surveyed had heard of the website, but less than half actually used it.”
Brian, an information technology student who drives in from Paterson five days a week, said his commute can take anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes, plus an additional 20 minutes to find parking. He’d much rather use the time he spends cruising for parking to grab a bite to eat or catch up with friends in the commuter lounge.
To optimize parking and streamline the destination arrival process, the team packed Park NJIT with smart features, like real-time parking availability stats for the main garages on campus, detailed graphs of parking availability over time, a custom map of nearby street parking and geofencing, a location-aware technology that sends parking space suggestions via push notifications to commuters once they reach a predefined geographic area near the university.
Park NJIT’s interface is straightforward and user-friendly. The number of parking spots available is the focal point of the app’s design. Progress circles display the capacity of the parking decks, which link to a page of historical parking data. For curbside parking options, a green marking indicates where drivers can park and a red marking indicates where they cannot.
“Our app requires no login,” explained Tavella. “Since we built it in native Android, students can just tap on the icon and see the parking information.”
Park NJIT had its first showing last fall at YWCC’s Capstone Showcase, where it competed against industry-sponsored projects, winning third place.
“Most of the students that came to our booth ended up downloading the app and saying how awesome of an idea it is and how they couldn’t wait to use it the following day,” recalled Tavella.
Equally impressed with the team’s effort was David Daudelin, an Amazon software engineer who served as a judge at the showcase.
“He enjoyed our app and work so much that he offered us personal recommendations for Amazon,” said Tavella. “I had such a great experience working on a multidisciplinary team to solve a real-world, high-impact problem that students deal with daily.”