Parking: Can Technology Tackle the Great Unsolved Urban Challenge?

By Greg Fiorindo

Greg is the Senior Vice President for the Americas at Streetline, where he's helping municipalities and universities solve transportation problems and become more sustainable. He has also worked for innovative companies like Salesforce.com and Oracle in sales, sales management, professional services, and general management roles. Greg holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics, Business Administration, and Spanish Language & Literature from UC Berkeley.

Jul 23, 2013 | Smart Cities | 0 comments

New technology now exists to tackle one of a city’s most pressing issues: parking. Communities large and small including Los Angeles, New York, Indianapolis, and Fort Lauderdale are among the first users of new sensing and guidance technology that is changing the way motorists find and pay for parking.  In addition to these larger metropolises, smaller suburban cities like San Carlos in Northern California are using the technology and seeing the impact it can have in many areas.

San Carlos is situated in the heart of Silicon Valley between San Francisco and San Jose.  The City’s 28,615 residents make up a thriving downtown community with a variety of restaurants, cafes, and boutiques.  With a motto of “The City of Good Living,” the city is aiming to also be the city of good parking.

Through a partnership with Cisco and Streetline, the City of San Carlos is now using a network of sensors and software applications to assist drivers in finding available parking, and help the city manage their parking assets more effectively.

Finding Parking

In a city-wide survey, it was found that more than half (57%) of respondents agreed that there is not enough parking in downtown San Carlos.

This is a common sentiment in many cities across the country. However, using parking studies, and more recently real-time parking data, many cities are finding that they generally don’t have a lack of available parking; drivers instead have the perception of scarcity due to a lack of information.

So, just how does this technology work? For motorists, data from parking sensors is pushed to a smart phone application, websites – and soon in-car navigation systems – to show available parking options around a given area. In addition to on-street parking spaces, motorists can access information about nearby parking lots and garages, as well as useful parking policy information such as time limits, or special restrictions like EV charging stations, ADA spaces, or commercial loading zones.

“There is no doubt that San Carlos has a parking problem.  The system alleviates that with the real-time, on-street information but also by highlighting the off-street lots.  Oftentimes, spaces are available in these lots while motorists pack Laurel Street waiting for a street spot to open up” said Lisa Costa Sanders, City Planner for City of San Carlos.

Improving the City Ecosystem

For the city, the parking sensors provide a detailed look at parking activity in terms of occupancy, turnover, length of stay, etc.

In addition, the city receives bi-weekly reports that analyze key trends and activity. By looking at the historical data and real-time data, cities like San Carlos can make informed, data-driven policy decisions related to optimizing enforcement hours, extending or reducing time limits, changing rates, or re-allocating permitted spaces.

ParkerSmaller cities and universities like Reno, Ellicott City, Clemson University, and San Mateo are also using this technology in similar ways. By offering a new service like parking guidance, these cities, towns, and universities can reduce parking congestion and optimize utilization of their parking real estate. The impact of this technology on parking-related driving times and emissions is becoming clearer. A recent study by Streetline in several metro areas, for example, compared motorists using the parking guidance app Parker to motorists looking for parking without guidance for nearly 30 trips. The drivers looked for parking near the same destination at the same time of day. On average, those using a parking guidance app reduced their search time by 43%. Additionally, the total vehicle miles traveled for those using the guidance app were reduced by nearly 21%. And, motorists using Parker saved money, as well; by using the information available within the app, motorists were more likely to find less expensive parking options, still within a reasonable distance from their final destination.

Cities are competing to attract talent, and many are implementing programs to make their downtowns more desirable. However, without the ability to access these downtowns, people will not be able to enjoy all that cities have to offer. As part of a complete streets/multimodal transportation strategy, smart parking can help to optimize space usage and facilitate access to downtown commerce areas. This improved access has the potential to make a city more competitive and improve the local economy.

It’s estimated that motorists looking for parking causes up to 30% of city traffic. A study by IBM found that reducing traffic congestion by 10% could increase GDP by 2%, and the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) found that the same 10% reduction could create 132,000 jobs in their region alone! With lower congestion and better access to parking availability, more people are able to visit downtown, giving stores higher foot traffic and increasing revenue for the city.

These positive impacts can attract job seekers, entrepreneurs, tourism, and residents to spur further growth. For cities like San Carlos, this means happier residents and visitors, more prosperous merchants, and a more inviting, vibrant community.

Beyond Parking?

Parking is just one aspect of city life where sensing & networking technology is having a significant impact.  The Streetline network, once deployed, has the potential to enable cities to deploy other “smart city” applications such as light & temperature sensing, noise & pollution sensing, and water pressure & level sensing.

“We see the smart parking system as just the beginning in using technology to improve city efficiency.  The ‘connected’ concept can carry over into street light monitoring, wastewater monitoring, and a host of other applications,” said Sanders.

While we’re just at the beginning of this journey, the technology is advancing to make the promise of a “smart city” closer to reality.

Discussion

Leave your comment below, or reply to others.

Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Read more from the Meeting of the Minds Blog

Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology

Rethinking Coastal Property in an Era of Climate Change

Rethinking Coastal Property in an Era of Climate Change

The country has provided hundreds of billions of dollars to recover from recent coastal storms but done little to rethink the existing policies and programs that contribute to coastal property losses, or to define new measures that account for the new realities of more damaging storms and rising sea levels.

A key first step toward smarter policies is to improve disclosure of risk associated with coastal properties. This will require better mapping of areas at risk of both storms and rising seas. National standards are needed for disclosure of coastal flood risk prior to sale. Lenders and supporting agencies need to evaluate and disclose coastal flood risk.

How Cities Can Engage with Mobility as a Service

How Cities Can Engage with Mobility as a Service

By incorporating multiple transport modes into a single application, users can benefit from personalised services which recognise individual mobility needs, easier transactions and payments, and dynamic journey management and planning.

A fully comprehensive MaaS offering could mean the ownership of private vehicles is no longer necessary for people. As mobility needs begin to be provided by a range of services through a single platform, usership could replace ownership.

The potential of MaaS has been recognised around the world. In the UK, the government has included MaaS within its transport strategy. An expert committee of Members of Parliament concluded that MaaS has the “potential to transform how people travel” by boosting public transport, reducing congestion, and improving air quality.

Four Cornerstones for Integrating Water and Energy Systems

Four Cornerstones for Integrating Water and Energy Systems

The water-energy nexus is not new. The concept that our water and energy systems are reliant on each other is sometimes paired with a third issue, like food security or public health. This can make it more relevant to our daily lives. Despite a basic understanding of resource interdependencies, city and utility leaders still allow planning and implementation processes to remain predominately separate. A common local scenario finds the water utility facing system upkeep alone, the energy utility not considering other utility issues or city goals as they operate, and city leaders generally focused on more visibly troublesome urban systems, like housing or transportation.

Join OurEmail List

Join OurEmail List

The Meeting of the Minds email list includes tens of thousands of urban practitioners, city leaders, heads of agencies, CEOs, executive directors, start-ups, decision makers, and budget holders. Keep up-to-date with the future of sustainable, equitable, connected cities by joining this list.

 

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This