North Hempstead Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio has proposed a mobile ride-sharing app to solve Port Washington's growing commuter parking woes.
The app -- which she has dubbed "PWarkit" -- would match drivers with passengers who live in the Port Washington parking district. Cars in the program would have access to reserved spaces close to the platform at the local LIRR station.
Drivers could arrange to drive to the station with at least two passengers, or the app would connect drivers with commuters searching for rides. De Giorgio said she hopes the app would help reduce the number of cars parked at the train station.
"Parking is at a premium at the train station," said De Giorgio, who represents the area and notes that about 1,000 parking spaces are available for commuters.
The project, which needs town board approval, resulted from months of discussions De Giorgio has been having with the community over parking issues.
The parking district has acquired four new lots since 2010, totaling about $4 million in various expenses, she said.
"Parking is not the best use of prime real estate," she said. "The last couple of years, the parking district has purchased more land and expanded the number of parking spaces. It's still not enough parking -- it's a great train line, and everyone wants to be on it."
The Port Washington Long Island Rail Road line is the only one that goes directly to Manhattan's Penn Station without going through Jamaica.
Mark Epstein, chairman of the LIRR Commuter Council, said he is open to hearing De Giorgio's proposal. The council is "always looking for innovative ideas," he said.
"The problem with parking on all of Long Island, it's woefully inadequate; clearly, ridership is increasing and parking spaces are not," Epstein said.
Communities across the country have embraced forms of ride-sharing, particularly on the West Coast, experts say. Some note De Giorgio's plan has similarities to Lyft, an app that assigns background-checked drivers to passengers in search of rides.
De Giorgio said she plans to greet riders Monday morning at the Port Washington LIRR station -- marking the second annual Car Free Day -- to attract support for the plan.
Paul Larrousse, director of the National Transit Institute at Rutgers University, said in an interview that the success of such a program "varies depending on the willingness of the community to embrace it, as well as having a solid program in place to encourage that it works well and makes it easy for people to use."
Sarah M. Kaufman, professor of planning at the NYU Rudin Center for Transportation, said ride-sharing isn't as popular as it should be on the East Coast. A challenge could be getting residents to be comfortable riding with strangers, she said.
Kaufman suggested connecting the app to a user's social media contacts. "The app would be especially beneficial if it linked up with Facebook and connected with people you know," she said, referring to a practice used by room-rental and dating sites. "Somehow if you're connected through the person, you'll feel better about riding in the car with them."