When he began studies at the University of Baltimore, Ope Thomas was commuting from Catonsville. While the commute wasn’t bad, the total travel time could be unpredictable.
After a 20-minute drive, “It would sometimes take me 40 minutes to find parking,” he said.
When he moved to the city, Thomas found that parking presented a challenge in other parts of the city, too. He realized he wasn’t alone – whether among University of Baltimore students, Baltimore residents or those in other cities.
So he started working on a tech solution that would help others find parking. After testing ideas within the company’s base at the University of Baltimore’s student incubator, he and a team of three others ended up at Roadi.
The app combines a few different functions to direct users to parking. Both through data from users and public data, it provides info on the best streets to find parking based on time and other variables. It also provides a user info on when a space frees up nearby.
Thomas said the company is starting by focusing on specific areas where parking is in demand. Given Thomas’ experiences, the University of Baltimore has been one such initial area, and the team has also been gathering data from Mt. Vernon to Canton.
The app is now available for iOs and Android. Thomas said he is seeing a steady number of downloads, saying, “It’s a consistent increase.”
A mention of a parking app in Baltimore may cause recall of Haystack, the app that let people rent out parking spots and lived on in an episode of NPR’s Planet Money even after its demise. Thomas also took note of that app, and met with its team as he developed Roadi. He said he learned a lot, but ultimately the services are somewhat different.
“Our approach is similar in a sense that we’re using peer to peer sharing,” he said. However, “it’s definitely different in that we’re not selling any spaces…There’s not a transaction that’s happening there,” he said.
Roadi makes money via in-app advertising, Thomas said.