Whether it takes you two hours, an hour or all of five minutes to get to campus, there are no promises on how long you’ll spend in limbo before securing a parking spot.
“I came to park at like 12 p.m., and it took me almost half an hour to park,” said junior Faith Hundtoft, a double major in German and linguistics. “The parking structures are pretty much useless if you’re coming any time 9 a.m.”
Tony Butte, a senior nutritionist major, said that he feels like his peers act more like high school students, treating the parking lot like a domain for tailgating,
“Some people sit in the aisle and just wait there, blocking everyone else,” Hundtoft said.
A recent graduate from California State University, Fullerton, Dahval Bhatt believes he has the answer to CSULB’s parking woes. Bhatt has founded and developed a web application coming to campus Wednesday called My Parking Buddy, giving a new meaning to “friends with benefits.”
Bhatt has taken the simple concept of the buddy system, and evolved it from mere uniform lines and kindergarten hand-holding to synchronized routines of swift vehicular spot swapping.
With My Parking Buddy, users notify one another on the application, the arriving student lends a lift in their car to the departing student’s currently parked car and the two commit to the switch.
In his sophomore year at CSUF, a vibrant memory sticks with Bhatt—not of blood-boiling exasperation from a driver swooping stolen spots or a maddening headache from the lady who has decided to lay on her horn—but of happiness.
“One day I saw this woman walking to her car,” Bhatt said. “There was like ten cars in front of her getting ready to steal her spot, so I asked her if I could drop her off at her car.”
After complying with his request and lending him her phone number for future reference, Bhatt had developed more than a new, co-operative relationship, but also his next business venture.
“The moment that happened I felt very happy,” Bhatt said. “First of all because I saved time. I felt less stressed. I realized this is what people need.”
To get started, the web application requires the user to log in with a student e-mail provided by the school. After that, the user uploads their desired arrival and departure times to a schedule, which uses a series of algorithms to find a compatible match.
A recent feature of My Parking Buddy includes the option to select a carport companion based on their gender. The three options include male, female or random if the user has no preference.
“The gender preference was installed after a girl requested to only be linked to women since she felt more secure,” Bhatt said.
Other features like a ranking system, a delete option and messaging between users will be added, Bhatt said. The ranking system is a step toward both safety and serves as healthy competition, Bhatt said, encouraging schools to compete amongst one another for the highest scores.
In 2011 the application began development. By 2012, Bhatt launched the site with 100 percent control of creative concepts and financial liability. It has been previously piloted at CSUF and is undergoing testing on the domain.
In fall of 2015, an iPhone app will be available.
“Eventually, if every student has it, the parking scene will be extremely organized,” Bhatt said. “At the moment, cars just come in and go straight to the fourth floor, second floor, third floor. They just don’t know where to park.”
Although the obvious initiative is to generate efficiency through technology, Bhatt proposes that My Parking Buddy is really to promote selfless acts of kindness. According to myparkingbuddy.com, the tool would “empower students to collaborate, develop interpersonal communication skills and maximize happiness.”
“So many possibilities are there when you build a good consistent relationship,” Bhatt said. “Good things are bound to happen when people are constantly collaborating.”
In addition to that, Bhatt said that his invention would act as a benefactor to universities as it may boost parking permit sales and decrease accident liability.
“Professors will like it a lot—they’ll be impressed that [students] will be in class on time.”
Bhatt said that he is not worried about safety hazards from the level of intimacy required by the application like hitching a ride because “the school is obligated to provide security like the campus police … It’s their duty to create a safe environment.”
Also, users are easy to track, given that My Parking Buddy runs on a shared server.
“The most beautiful comment was from a woman who had a buddy, and she was never late to class,” Bhatt said. “The moment you read something that you created has made a difference in someone’s life, it really makes you happy [and] want to pursue it more.”