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The Parking Technology Revolution is Here
Nick Mazzenga, P.E., Kimley-Horn
Let’s face it, we have all been there—you arrive at your destination and you do not know where to park, or when you arrive, there is no parking available. The parking problem is not an isolated one; it has a ripple effect on other parts of the transportation network. An estimated 30 percent of traffic in urban areas is caused by drivers looking for parking, so reducing inefficiency in parking systems is crucial to mitigating the parking and congestion problem and increasing mobility.
For many years, the parking and mobility industries have been merging into one. Mobility is helping people and goods get from point A to point B safely and efficiently. The parking industry is responsible for managing limited parking resources near primary destinations and making sure that access is as safe and convenient as possible. So, what are agency and municipal leaders doing about parking and mobility challenges and what are some of the emerging trends that are shaping the new parking landscape?
According to a 2019 member survey, the International Parking and Mobility Institute (IPMI), identified the following top three emerging parking trends:
1. Need for Curb Space Management
Curb lane management studies have been performed since as early as 2011, but only recently has the curb become a focal point. Arlington County, Virginia’s Mobility Lab dubbed 2018, “The year of the curb.” The curb has become critical infrastructure for a growing number of activities including bike lanes and bike corals; dedicated car-share spaces; delivery trucks; transit service; app-based delivery services; trash collection; transportation network companies (TNCs); and last but not least, personal vehicles. The latest entry into this crowded space has been the introduction of e-scooters. With these competing demands for curb space, management strategies and technologies that balance the demands of all these users is more critical than ever. Which policies are ultimately selected is up to the local transportation officials and politicians, but the underlying technology to support better curb management is the focus of the engineers, planners, and technologists.
2. Shared Mobility Applications and Mobility as a Service
Information and communication technologies, combined with smartphone applications and location data, are making transportation services that have long been imagined feasible on a large scale. These innovations include: carsharing, bike sharing, micro transit services, and most notably, transportation network companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft.
Mobility is helping people and goods get from point A to point B safely and efficiently
These services are being embraced by millions of travelers who are using their smartphones to arrange for trips by car, shuttle, and public transit, as well as for short-term rental of cars and bicycles. These new services epitomize today’s sharing economy and allow an increasing number of people to enjoy the mobility benefits of an automobile without owning one. They may also encourage others to leave their personal vehicle at home for the day, reduce the number of vehicles in their household, or even forgo having one at all.
Shared mobility goals include:
• Improving the efficiency of existing mobility infrastructure. Adding more infrastructure is simply not an option in many urban environments. Using technology, we can move people, vehicles, and goods more efficiently through the existing infrastructure.
• Increasing the capacity of the existing mobility infrastructure. The goal here is to move more people, vehicles, and goods through the existing infrastructure.
• Changing the behaviors of urban travelers. This is about influencing the choices that travelers make toward options that reduce congestion. Agencies that implement dynamic pricing can reduce traffic congestion in all-electronic toll collection and/or on-street parking situations, using pricing as a mechanism to influence driver choices. Smart parking programs help to increase space availability and reduce pollution and congestion by helping drivers get to a parking spot at their desired price point sooner. Incorporating telecommuting into the office culture helps to keep people and vehicles off the roads during the day. Providing accessible multimodal options such as ridesharing, car sharing, and public transportation via mobility apps creates opportunities to make different choices that can result in less personal vehicle usage and less congestion.
3. Technologies that Improve Access and Payment
Where does technology fit into curb management? Technology can be used to monitor the curb space, track usage, and provide data for improved resource management. By collecting real-time data on parking usage at the curb level, parking professionals can adjust parking rates to achieve defined occupancy targets and better balance peak demands. Several cities across the US are piloting projects where the curb space is being dynamically priced to more appropriately allocate parking. Cities are also looking for ways to make the parking experience as frictionless as possible for commercial vehicles. In an ideal world a commercial vehicle would pull up to a designated commercial vehicle loading zone along the curb, load or unload, then drive away without pulling a parking ticket, starting an app-based parking session, or putting change in a meter. The frictionless system will simply charge the vehicle owner for the time they occupied the curb space. There are electronic transponder-based systems and location-based systems that support these frictionless systems. A transponder-based system relies on a small transponder placed in the vehicle and roadside units that recognize when the vehicle is parked in the space. The roadside unit communicates wirelessly back to a central system that confirms that the vehicle parked in the space is properly credentialed and then it starts and stops the parking session. The location-based system relies on fleet operators integrating an Application Programming Interface (API)into their vehicle tracking system. The location of the vehicle is communicated to a central system when the vehicle enters and leaves a geofenced zone. Both systems leverage the presence of a vehicle in a designated parking zone to appropriately charge the user for the time that the curb space was occupied.
Parking without technology is not easily managed. It is important for decision-makers in the parking industry to understand the policies and technologies that are available to solve their parking challenges. Cities should share lessons learned about the challenges and solutions they’ve implemented with other cities. Data-driven resource management, advancing shared mobility applications, and technology can play a critical role in delivering more efficient, better managed, and more customer friendly urban parking and access systems when integrated into a larger urban area plan.