A Parking Solution for Smart Cities
Editor's Note: Thomas will present a free webinar on this topic on October 24th, 2018. He will be joined by the Mayor of Bad Hersfeld, Thomas Fehling. More info and registration.
For a city's residents and visitors, ease of travel is imperative. Customer service is critical, even in a city environment, as parking woes can hinder the ability for drivers to find open spaces, causing frustration and dissatisfaction with a city’s parking infrastructure as a whole. In some cases, this irritation can lead to drivers giving up altogether, abandoning their goal of reaching their destination and possibly reducing the amount of money they spend in a particular location. This can mean less revenue for businesses.
Customer service, as a result, begins the moment a person starts searching for a parking space. Because of this, easing the parking experience is a top priority for cities. In a study conducted by the International Parking Institute in 2018, 42 percent of respondents said the demand for guidance systems to help drivers find parking was one of the top emerging trends in parking for the year.
Parking is a tough problem, and it's a common issue for many cities across the globe. Municipalities face the challenge of keeping residents happy while also providing a welcoming atmosphere to out-of-towners when an influx of traffic occurs.
Bad Hersfeld, Germany, sought to change how it handles traffic from both visitors and tourists on a daily basis and especially during special events. A lot can be learned from the forward-thinking nature of the Mayor of Bad Hersfeld, Thomas Fehling, and his vision for a more streamlined approach to parking management.
Bad Hersfeld is known for its yearly Bad Hersfelder Festspiele opera festival and concerts, along with its popular farmers market held near the center of the city. During these times, traffic causes significant congestion throughout the city. “There's a lot of stress and discomfort, and many times, shoppers and visitors are annoyed before they ever start their shopping experience in our town,” Mayor Fehling explains. He has experienced similar challenges as a visitor in other cities, and as a leader at Bad Hersfeld, he proactively sought out a solution to the problem.
“We want to provide drivers with a stress-free experience when they visit our town center and shopping areas,” he said. “Parking can be challenging during these busy times, and with traffic flow in and out of the parking areas, there needed to be a way to guide cars quickly and efficiently to speed up the parking process.”
Fehling faced an uphill battle in addressing the city's parking challenges. The city had previously deployed in-ground sensors that were supposed to identify whether spaces were occupied. Instead, the sensors were difficult to deploy, as roads had to be torn up in order to implement the solution. Additionally, the heavy snow in the winter and the interference from surrounding objects made the sensors unreliable in reporting the status of parking spaces. This type of technology is present in a number of cities today with limited success. Fehling said the technology “never really worked well” and in fact, it created problems for both the city's parking management and drivers themselves.
In Bad Hersfeld, the city center is the epicenter of many of the community’s tourism-driven events, such as the twice-weekly farmers and flea markets and the city’s annual Bad Hersfelder Festspiele opera and theater festival concerts that bring in tourists from all over the world. As a result, parking during these events can become a problem, and the current method of engaging with drivers was ineffective in solving these issues.
Following an internal review of the existing solution, a team removed the in-ground technology in favor of an integrated, intelligent parking management solution. With this platform, sensors are installed above the parking spaces on light poles, overcoming challenges that in-ground sensors face, such as interference from magnetic fields and the high risk of damage by vandalism, roadwork or snow plows. The updated solution provides more information to drivers, directing traffic to open spots, reducing emissions and decreasing congestion during peak times. Drivers are dynamically guided to free spaces through the sensor's integrated LED screens.
As a result of the new intelligent parking solution, the city has identified problem areas and taken steps to rectify issues with current parking. Drivers spend less time on the road overall, as they are taken to open spaces and aren’t left driving around for longer periods of time searching for an open space. As a result, emissions are reduced overall within the city’s limits. The increased parking efficiency also drives tourism to the city’s epicenter, where shops and restaurants line the streets and are dependent on the ability of people to access the area.
The platform also revolutionizes the process of parking by delivering real-time identification of free and occupied spaces, easing the search for a parking spot while reducing environmental impact. Long-term, this can result in less pollution in an area because of reduced emissions, a goal that many smart cities around the world share.
Additionally, the parking solution's screens can be used to transmit critical information to drivers, including emergency notifications, important citywide announcements or information about events in the area, creating a unique and progressive approach to managing a city's parking. The ability of the solution to be leveraged for multiple uses extends ROI.
For the people visiting a city event, customer service is imperative. And it begins the moment drivers turn into a parking area or lot to search for a space. A smart parking solution combines all aspects of traditional parking technology into one integrated, intelligent system. This platform combines overhead sensors, mobile apps, management software and analytics to streamline the parking experience for drivers and operations teams, gather information about usage and space availability, and offer real value to visitors and residents.
“Our goal was to increase the quality of life for visitors coming into our city and for the people who call this home,” Fehling said. As a result of his foresight and commitment to delivering a better parking experience, Fehling was able to address challenges today's cities face, including increased traffic, a high demand for spaces and aging infrastructure.
While this is only one example of parking management technology in use, there are many other potential applications. In the future, parking management technology like the kind implemented in Bad Hersfeld can help fight congestion on city streets, lower emissions and contribute to a truly smart — and happy — city.
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