Future Mobility and Parking

George McLean Hazel, OBE

Trends in mobility are opening up a world of new opportunities for the parking industry. In the future, mobility will have to be user-focused, seamless, and valued–this is non-negotiable. The trend is being driven by socio-economic factors such as the desire for personalized services and value; technological factors such as smart phones and apps; and retailing factors, with retailers moving from selling products to selling lifestyles. This is happening all over the world. The key question for those in the parking industry is: do they want to drive this agenda or be driven? (if you’ll pardon the pun!)

A new business area is emerging–mobility management–in which a range of services is combined, integrated, and managed for individual users. There are two broad implications for parking. At the city level, parking systems will control supply and demand virtually, dynamically adjusting prices according to prescribed targets. There will also be operational savings, as much on-street equipment will not be needed because the system will know where each vehicle is and where each parking space is. The system will work on retailing principles, segmenting the market to a fine level, operating a behavioral choice model and incentivizing the customer with respect to stated objectives. Such a system could be owned and operated by the private sector or franchised by the city authority and operated by the private sector. Both business models are relevant and need to be developed. The key point is that such a system can be used to achieve commercial, economic, environmental, or social objectives, depending who controls it.

At the individual level, personalized mobility packages will be developed at various levels of complexity and offered to users. These packages will tell the user where all the available spaces are, what the prices are, give them the ability to extend the parking time remotely, and give access to other value added services such as pre-booking of spaces, booking of restaurants, etc. Customers will be incentivized through loyalty systems and offers.

Private businesses and public sector agencies in the parking industry have a choice to make in the near future. Do they want to shape, develop, design, and manage these systems, or do they want to remain operators? Both choices are valid and legitimate businesses, but the decision will have major implications for the individual business and perhaps for the city.

Technology: On-Street Star Wars

Brett Wood

Over the past 10 or so years, the parking industry has seen a revolution in technology, especially in the way we operate and manage the curb spaces in our communities. On-street meters have evolved from the mechanical devices implemented in Oklahoma City in 1935 to digital models with greater flexibility in enforcement and maintenance, through a quantum leap to today’s credit card-accepting, ATM-like machines with interfaces that allow us to pay for parking, get directions, and potentially make a cup of coffee.

Parking meters are probably the most visible of our technological advances, but there are many complimentary uses that help us manage on-street parking:

  • Handheld enforcement devices for our enforcement staff make it easier to find, enforce, and document parking violations.
  • In-space or pole mounted sensors provide us the data we need to drive our programs and know who’s parking where, when, and for how long. This data can be used to better enforce parking, set dynamic rates, and provide real-time availability to users.
  • Smartphone applications are providing the where and what to our customers in a better way, helping drivers make informed decisions about where to park before they reach their destinations and circle for blocks.
  • These same applications are finding their way to in-car navigation, helping drivers with turn-by-turn directions to available parking.

We are truly in the midst of a technological boom in the parking industry. The only question is, is this the beginning or the end? I guess we will have to wait until the IPI Conference & Expo in Phoenix, June 10-14, to find out what exciting new features and applications are in store for the parking industry.

Until then, let the force (of better on-street parking) be with you.