Yes, Virginia …
Becoming the Change with ‘Towit’
By Astrid Ambroziak
It seems that every day there is a new app that can make our lives easier, more efficient, and over-all happier. Every day, there is a new startup company claiming that their app is the answer to our ills. Some even suggest that our lives are nothing without their particular app.
In other words, to live now, I must live through the plethora of apps.
“What apps do you have on your iPhone?” asks the handsome stranger who sees me running with my latest iPhone model. These days, his is as popular a pick-up line as “What is your sign?” was in the 1990s.
If, in 1897, we were so app-centered, Virginia O’Hanlon’s Papa would have responded to her “Is there a Santa Claus?” question not with “If you see it in The Sun [newspaper], it’s so,” but with “If you see it via an app, it’s so.”
Thus, I might have had the misfortune of never having read one of the most beautiful, most reprinted editorials by The New York Sun’s Francis Pharcellus Church. Neither Virginia nor I would be gifted with the opportunity to ponder:
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. … The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”
All the technology and apps are transforming the parking industry just as surely as they are influencing our daily lives. With an app, I can rent out my empty parking space. With an app, I can pay for parking while not interrupting my dinner date. With an app, I can have an easier access to a sporting event. With an app, I can locate an empty spot to park.
With an app, I can even “establish a commercial enterprise on the public easement” (1937, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court), as it happened with some parking apps that were banned in Boston and other cities.
It’s all in the apps. It is the convenience for a customer and, hopefully, great fortunes for the company that brought them to the public.
Are there any parking apps that resonate as does Church’s response to Virginia, steering me toward generosity and life’s highest virtues? Yes, even among a cornucopia of parking apps that can leave me often perplexed, I have found such an app: TowIt, which “allows civilians to report parking violations and dangerous driving in real time. ...”
TowIt, by TowIt Solutions, is an app that can change behaviors, consciousness and, hopefully, inspire me and anyone to have a sliver of Santa Claus in her heart.
Parking our cars while we pride ourselves in destructive multitasking is a challenge -- especially when we are juggling so many choices and so little time.
Parking can bring out the worst in all of us. In parking, we react often from our primitive brain. It is all flight, fight or freeze.
Convenient parking is a hot commodity, and neither “Love thy neighbor” or “thy enemy” figures in. Incidents of violence and explosive anger while securing a parking spot are seemingly rampant.
Parking makes us lose our reason and disconnects our prefrontal cortex. As “Parking Guru” Donald Shoup has said, “Staunch conservatives often become ardent communists when it comes to parking, and rational people quickly turn emotional.”
Until recently, there hasn’t been any solution to conflict in parking, except truly to look within and take a moment to ponder, instead of becoming reactive. Now, with a parking app, we have an option to become more mindful of our own behaviors as well, and point out others’ inconsiderate, rude or rule-breaking behaviors.
TowIt was created by Toronto app developer Michael McArthur and business partner Gregory Meloche, along with a small group of developers. McArthur got the idea for the app while reading a Facebook post (yes, Virginia, social media rule) from his former boss wondering why some vehicle in violation doesn’t just get towed. That idea turned into crowdsourcing app that gets people to point out, via smartphone technology, illegally or recklessly parked vehicles to authorities.
We no longer have to turn to sticks and stones to unload our frustration with that Tahoe parked in a bike lane. Nor do we have to engage in an unpleasant exchange with that tight-end fit driver of a Bentley parked in the handicap spot. Even the driver of a Prius, in all his self-importance, occupying two parking spaces won’t get our blood to boil into an altercation.
Instead, we can use modern technology, take a picture with the TowIt app and enter the offender’s license plate. “Municipal governments, local law enforcement and towing companies,” TowIt says, then can immediately access the data and act accordingly.
The app becomes a version of a candid camera. Moreover, it can invite me and others to grow more considerate in our own parking habits.
If we are aware that our inconsiderate, rule-braking behaviors can be reported and that there are consequences to our behaviors, we can become more mindful.
Bike lanes are for cyclists and not for parking our cars. If we can go on a two-hour hike in Runyon Canyon in Los Angeles, surely we don’t need to have a handicap placard to park in a residential-only area, within a few feet from the entrance to the trail.
A few more blocks of walking can be beneficial to our health and respectful to our fellow man. Parking on sidewalks blocks the passage of a mother with child and puts them in danger when she has to step into the traffic.
TowIt isn’t an app to shame people. TowIt gives us an option to point out a careless or irresponsible behavior and change it. TowIt creates accountability. With TowIt, I can gently report a bad parker, raise awareness that parking is privilege, and be the change I want to see.
Some might see Michael McArthur starting an anti-car movement. What he has done with TowIt is actually a pro car and humanity movement. Cars belong to people. Cars are driven by people. Even the future self-driving cars will be in the service of the people.
We simply must become aware that we share our roads, and we share our parking spaces, with other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
“This is not an anti-car movement by any means,” McArthur says. “I know it may seem that way to the public; I’m a downtown cyclist. We are trying to solve a problem that impacts tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people, in our city every day.”
Therefore, TowIt represents technology at its best, creating value while raising virtue. It allows us to stop seeing parking as entitlement while gently pointing to others their erroneous habits. No more passive aggressive notes left on windshields and no more rage.
With TowIt, we take responsibility and we co-exist in this car-centric world. And when our behaviors change, we can see money spent on enforcement going instead to the people, giving us services that we need. “I am offering the police/cities a free solution, with no cost to them and no cost to the taxpayers,” McArthur says.
Sun Editorialist Church wrote: “Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain [covering the unseen world] and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world, there is nothing else real and abiding.”
With endless parking apps now available to us, we can create more “beauty and glory” by gaining convenience and time. Yet, these apps become worthless in the long run if we don’t park mindfully and stop disrespecting others with whom we share the road.
TowIt is an app that pushes asides the curtain of selfishness, calling us to go beyond, to be more compassionate parkers and kinder people.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and this year he brought an app that helps us be better parkers and citizens.