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Nonprofit, working with Port Washington councilwoman, to develop commuter app

North Hempstead Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio stands at

North Hempstead Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio stands at the Port Washington LIRR station ahead of a planned roll out of a new ride-sharing app on Sept. 19, 2014. Credit: Johnny Milano

A nonprofit has agreed to develop and fund a ride-sharing app for commuters at the Port Washington train station, which is among the most popular stations on Long Island and one where parking space is highly coveted.

The Melville-based chapter of 511 NY Ride Share, a nonprofit, will partner with North Hempstead councilwoman Dina De Giorgio to develop Pwarkit, an app that would link participating drivers with commuters. De Giorgio said the plan calls for reserved parking spots near the train station for those who use the app.

Commuter advocates have long complained of limited parking at the Port Washington station. The Port Washington line is the only one operated by the Long Island Rail Road with direct trains to Penn Station, skipping Jamaica.

The goal of Pwarkit would be to alleviate congestion at the station -- which has about 1,000 spots -- with "fewer cars looking for parking spaces, which eases the parking burden for those people not participating in the app," De Giorgio said.

De Giorgio said the number of spaces reserved will depend on demand from the app. No spaces will be unfilled, she said. In recent years the Port Washington Parking District, which is run by the Town of North Hempstead, has bought land to be converted for municipal parking.

De Giorgio said she proposed Pwarkit to the public last year as ride-sharing apps like Lyft become popular nationally, especially on the West Coast.

Experts have urged ride sharing to combat Long Island's parking woes. Paul Spreer, regional manager for the 511 NY Ride Share program, said, "The hardest thing is changing your behavior. We've still got some work to do; it's getting to be more and more on the people's consciousness."

Spreer said there is no timetable for developing the app and he hopes that if it succeeds, Pwarkit could be launched in other Long Island towns.

About 60,000 users in the state are registered in the group's ride-sharing database. Participants can connect with one another and arrange for rides.

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