Innovation in the form of mobile apps is nothing new. Statistics regarding the number of apps available for download in leading app stores in July 2014 totaled more than 3.1 million! An increasing number of these apps has specific parking and transportation components, and others have a focus on helping us better understand and navigate our favorite urban environments.
A team of former Google employees has begun to merge these key areas creating apps called “Urban Engines.” This exciting development shows early signs of promise for revolutionizing intra-city movement. The app differs from Google maps in certain significant ways. For one, you can drag and drop location and destination pins, allowing the app to instantaneously draw a smart path from place to place. This feature works without exact addresses, so if you’re traveling across town to merely wander, you don’t need to have a destination in mind.
Urban Engines aggregates city transportation options so you can find the most efficient route, whether that be by car, bus, subway, sidewalk, or some combination of all options. These directions are ranked by time, though they may be sorted to minimize distance or maximize use of a certain transportation mode. It also includes offline maps of 10 North American cities—Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington, D.C.—so residents and visitors need not even have an Internet connection to get around. In addition, the Urban Engines app has a cool X-Ray mode which opens your camera and uses augmented reality to overlay your route on what you’re seeing —city streets, inside the subway or anywhere.
Tech Travel Trends and the Connected Traveler
Mobile devices will be a primary tool allowing the traveler to do their transportation research while on the move in the future. The introduction of new transportation and mobility related apps allows the traveler to be more informed and make better informed choices. A few of the most popular travel apps are:
- Foursquare: with a custom-created set of must-see locations.
- TripIt: for the itinerary.
- Passbook: for hotel bookings.
- Citymapper: to get the traveler to/from the airport (in the U.K.).
- Find My Friends: to help travel companions find each other if the group of travelers gets split up.
- Google Glass: Google’s augmented reality glasses allowing the traveler to capture photos and videos, browse the web, or make calls.
For consumers, online travel and its new world of self-service options have brought convenience, access, speed, and control. The concept of personalizing transportation tools will be vital for the travel, hospitality and, yes, the parking industry going forward. It involves understanding our customers’ needs, preferences, and budget, and then offering custom packages that meet those needs. Allowing our customers to stay highly connected through mobile devices and various apps will be a key to success for parking and transportation programs in the future.
At the upcoming IPI Conference & Expo in Las Vegas this summer, Josh Kavanagh, CAPP, and I will be giving a presentation on “Releasing the Parking Brake: Strategies to Leverage Parking and Access Management as a Tool to Create Local Competitive Advantage.” The innovations described above are just one dimension of this exciting concept. We hope you will attend our session and learn about the full range of options available to enhance your community’s competitive position.