All Roads Lead to Technology

EmergingTrends_100sq

According to a new survey released today by the International Parking Institute (IPI), technology, sustainability, revenue-generation, and customer service are the top trends in the parking industry and the things most parking professionals are looking for.

The 2012 Emerging Trends in Parking Survey was released at the IPI Conference & Expo in Phoenix, Ariz., this morning. It showed that cashless, electronic, and automatic payment systems join apps that provide real-time information about parking rates and availability and wireless sensing devices that help improve traffic management as the top in-demand technologies in the industry.

More than one-third of respondents said that demand for sustainable services is a top trend, and that they’re talking about energy-efficient lighting, parking space guidance systems, automatic payment process, solar panels, renewable energy technology, and systems that accommodate electric vehicles and/or encourage alternative methods of travel. Technologies that help people find parking faster take cars off the road; an estimated 30 percent of people driving around cities at any time are looking for parking, wasting fuel and emitting carbons.

Survey participants also said that convincing urban planners, local governments, and architects to include parking professionals in their early planning processes is a priority; doing that, they said, would help prevent many design problems in final projects. And when asked where parking should be included as a course of study in academic institutions, nearly half of the survey participants said schools of urban study, followed by business or public policy schools.

The full survey can be accessed on IPI’s website.

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.

The Conundrum of Paid Parking

Brett Wood

We are often asked about the implementation of paid parking within a community. Citizens, business owners, property owners, employees, and employers all want to know three things:

  • How will this affect business?
  • Who is going to be accountable for the system?
  • How do you measure success?

These are difficult questions to answer, but we find ourselves trying to answer them more and more. Every community reacts differently, and the success or failure of a parking system depends on everyone involved. Your community should consider these thoughts:

The community has to support implementation. You don’t have to believe in it, but if you want your business to succeed in the new environment, it’s imperative that you educate yourself, your employees, and your customers about the benefits and use of the system.

Forget about revenue. Paid parking shouldn’t be a cash grab for the general fund. For successful implementation, everyone has to understand that paid parking is about management, providing incentives to park away from premium spots, and encouraging prime spots to turn over.

Give something back. Provide some tangible benefit to the area through benefit districts that pay for transportation and community enhancements, and tell people you are doing it. Put a sticker on every meter that tells your customers where the money goes.

Ease up on the tickets. If you implement paid parking, focus on compliance. Ease up on citations. By educating your customers about how and where to park, violations should go down and revenue should be unchanged.

Market, market, market. Before you implement paid parking, start educating your customers about it. Pilot studies are a great way to test new technology before you buy. Don’t be afraid to try three or four vendors and equipment types. Test them all at one time. Ask people what they think.

Be flexible. Provide payment options. Don’t be afraid to raise or lower rates if you don’t find the balance you like. Go into the implementation with the mindset that year one is a trial, and include your stakeholders. Because they are using the system, and they are educating your customers.

All Is Vanity … Plates

Isaiah Mouw

A Yahoo article recently told the story of Danny White of Washington, D.C., who purchased a vanity plate that simply said, ‘NO TAGS’. What’s the problem with this? Enforcement officers write “no tags” when issuing a parking ticket for a vehicle with no license plate. As a result, White has racked up a total of more than $20,000 worth of parking tickets, none of which belong to him.

Washington, D.C. driver Danny White thought he had a really good idea for a joke. But the joke’s on him–to the tune of $20,000, reports local affiliate NBC4.

White’s prank started 25 years ago when he got a vanity license plate reading, “NO TAGS.” He told NBC4 that he was ”Just having fun!” and that ”D.C. don’t get the joke. They don’t get it.”

The article also mentions Nick Vautier of Los Angeles, Calif., who bought a vanity plate with his initials. Enforcement officers there often use “NV” when writing a citation for a plate-less vehicle. Vautier eventually changed his plate after scores of unpaid ticket notices flooded his mailbox.

Early in my parking career, I used the plate “ABC123″ when training officers to write parking tickets. There was a woman in a nearby town who kept receiving notices for unpaid tickets even though she rarely came to our city; her tags were, of course, ABC123. Being a teacher, she would not part ways with that plate.

Some cities now scan bar codes from state inspection stickers when issuing parking tickets. The scan records bar code data including plate type and VIN. This eliminates much of the confusion from vanity plates or the growing number of specialty plates that use the same number system as unadorned tags, but depend on the officer to differentiate by noting a college logo or other plate design.

Whatever the resolution is, I’d have to agree with a comment on the website: “It’s 2012. This should be something that technology should be easily able to fix.” The other I like is this: “My next car will have the plate ‘I FORGOT’. That way, if I get in a hit and run accident and the cops ask the guy I hit what the license plate was of my car…”