Uber's Virtual Garage scheme could ease the need for city car parks


Summit, a small city in New Jersey, is going to begin subsidizing Uber rides for residents travelling to and from the local train station in an effort to reduce the demand for parking spaces.

Only a 45 minute train ride from the city of New York, Summit is a popular suburb for those working in the city, with 22,000 residents packed into a relatively small area. As a result parking around the station is in high-demand and despite paying the money for a parking permit, many commuters are unable to rely on finding a space in the morning.

According to Buzzfeed, the city's administrator, Michael Rogers, found himself inundated with demands for more parking to be made available. Unfortunately, building parking facilities is an expensive business and finding the land to do it in highly populated areas isn't easy.

Freeing up space

As a result, Rogers contacted Uber's New Jersey general manager, Ana Mahony, and suggested the Virtual Garage scheme.

The scheme involves 100 Summit residents whose Uber rides to and from the station will be subsidized by the council. The rides won't be free, of course - rather they'll cost the residents $2 each way, making the cost for a return journey equal to the $4 fee for a day of parking. Being a fairly small city, the rides wouldn't have cost too much more than this anyway, but the city will directly reimburse the Uber drivers the difference in price for each journey.

The hope is that by freeing up even just 100 parking spaces, the strain on the existing parking lot will be significantly reduced. The scheme will only be running for 6 months, but it's estimated its annual cost will be $167,000. Considering the price of new parking facilities would be around $10 million, never mind the difficulty of finding enough land, the scheme certainly does appear to be a more cost-effective and much faster solution.

This isn't just a move that benefits Summit; taking part in the scheme gives Uber a good way to expand its service outside of the large cities where it gets the majority of its business.

What makes this scheme even more promising for Summit is that the city has already successfully partnered with Uber – in December of last year the city paid for a $5 flat rate for local journeys to reduce congestions and drunk driving incidents over the holiday period.

Schemes such as this are certainly an interesting approach for local authorities with limited budgets; not only do they provide a faster solution to the parking space problem, they encourage residents to continue to use public transport and there's a chance it could even reduce the number of cars on the road altogether in these areas.

Emma Boyle

Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.