The Solar Parking Lot

Isaiah Mouw

The Wright Brothers started in a garage. Amazon started in a garage. Hewlett Packard and Disney both started in garages. Mattel started in a garage. The Ramones started in a garage. And the world’s first solar roadway started in a… parking lot. The Solar Roadways team just finished up the world’s first solar parking lot.

Scott and Julie Brusaw stand beside the Solar Roadways prototype parking lot

Scott and Julie Brusaw stand beside the Solar Roadways prototype parking lot

You might remember Scott and Julie Brusaw from their presentation at the 2013 IPI Conference &Expo or the feature in the February 2013 issue of The Parking Professional. They told us of their dreams to pave the world’s highways with high-tech solar panel roadways. Their purpose is to replace our nation’s deteriorating highway infrastructure and crumbling power grid with an intelligent highway system that pays for itself through the generation of electricity and doubles as an intelligent, self-healing, decentralized power grid. With the completion of this parking lot, they are one step closer to their dream.

“One of the biggest challenges of this phase was to explore and test various glass surfaces and textures and test them for strength, traction, and durability and all test results have exceeded our expectations. In addition to the solar cells, the panels contain heaters to keep them snow and ice free and LED lights for road lines and verbiage”, says Scott Brusaw. You can check out the pictures of the prototype parking lot here.

The parking industry can once again lead the way by donating to Solar Roadways’ Indiegogo crowdsource fundraising campaign which goes live on Earth Day (April 22). They plan to raise funds to be used to hire a team, plan for production and gear up for manufacturing, one parking lot at a time. It’s a fascinating project, and I’ll report back as new developments arise.

Evolution

Dave Feehan

In parking, as in life, the best usually prevails–but not always.

When automobiles first came on the scene, gasoline-powered cars competed with electrics, steamers, and diesels. Eventually, gasoline won out, although electric-powered cars are more efficient and both steam- and diesel-powered engines produce more torque. Essentially, gasoline’s convenience that won the day.

Consider recorded music: We evolved from 8-tracks to cassettes, CDs, and now to iPods and cloud storage.

In video, VHS won out over Betamax, and Blu-ray defeated HD DVD. Was VHS better? Is Blu-ray really better? Some would argue that the defeated technologies were actually superior.

So, which technology will dominate the parking meter field in years to come? They all pretty much accept credit cards, so that’s a settled issue. But is pay-by-space, pay-and display, or pay-by-plate better? Are multi-space meters better than single-space? Will meters as we know them be made obsolete by pay-by-cell?

I asked a handful of IPI members I consider leading experts, and they pretty much all agreed that pay-by-cell is the single unifying technology that will dominate. But in the meantime, what should a city, parking authority, or private entity do to provide customers with the most efficient and customer-friendly–or at least the least annoying–form of parking meter?

Pay-and-display has the largest market share in the U.S. and Europe. Customers like the portability of pay-by-space; they’re buying time, not a particular space. The big drawback is that it makes pay-by-cell difficult. Pay-by-space has its proponents, but it can be tricky in cold-weather cities where snow makes for real problems. Pay-by-plate has made some inroads, but it too has problems in cold-weather cities and with U.S. license plates that are not always linear.

The jury is still out. The gripes I hear from customers are not so much related to which type of meter, but to meters that seem to take forever to process information and print receipts, screens that are difficult to read or are poorly placed, and kiosks that are badly signed or hidden by other street elements. A well-designed meter that is easy to read, fast to process, and conveniently located–and that accepts pay-by-cell–is still the best choice.

The New Kid at the Auto Show

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

“You are going where?”

“The LA Auto Show.”

“But I thought you worked in parking.”

“ I do.”

So went a recent conversation with a friend who, coincidentally, used to design booths for auto shows.  He couldn’t believe there would be any interest in parking at the big one in Los Angeles. My response to him was to evoke a famous Bob Dylan track: The Times They Are a-Changin’.

One of the major trends for 2013 has been the connected car. Parking seems to not only fit extremely well into this trend, but is establishing itself as one of the essential elements.

We saw a glimpse of this back in September at the Frankfurt Auto Show, where European automakers showcased their leading technology. You guessed it, parking was there!

At the LA Auto Show, it became very clear that the automotive world sees parking as a very logical addition to navigation systems, and that these systems are fast gaining momentum toward being a standard in-car feature.

As Paul Asel, managing partner of Nokia Growth Partners, commented, “New auto technologies adopted in the next few years have the potential to alter our driving experience more than at any time in the past 50 years. The LA Auto Show offered a glimpse of what the next few years may offer. Much more is yet to come.”

Whether you operate a parking lot, provide parking information through a website or app, or manage payments and/or reservations, the auto world is ready to knock on your door.

 

Real-Time Pricing in the Real World

Christina Onesirosan Martinez

The last few years have seen a real explosion in terms of the number of people using mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets. As we know, the mobile industry is a fascinating, fast-paced environment where technologies, devices, and companies change every day.

Love them, or hate them, mobile devices are here to stay. So, as is the case with your mother-in-law, you just have to get on with it and embrace them.

It is crucial for parking operators to keep pricing information as up to date as possible because like it or not, many drivers make decisions based on price, and there is nothing worse than arriving at your chosen destination and realizing that the space will now cost you more.

Many of you will scream, “No, constant price changes are not convenient for the driver! They create confusion!” Some of you will be in agreement that dynamic pricing allows for better yield management, which in turn optimizes revenue.

Those in the “green” corner have realized that up-to-date pricing achieves the goal of opening up spaces, reducing unnecessary driving around. This has been seen in San Francisco, where intentionally raised on-street prices (on high-demand blocks) are steering drivers to park on another street or in a neighboring parking lot, opening up prime street spots.

Still not convinced? I’ll leave you with a story that illustrates the value of distributing real-time information about parking pricing:

The operator of a parking lot at a railway station recently agreed to a price change whereby drivers leaving their cars at the station parking lot and continuing their journey by train were entitled to a discount of nearly 50 percent on the posted daily parking rate. All they had to do was purchase the ticket at the counter instead of at the payment machine or online. But this information wasn’t conveyed to customers in real time (as it would be via mobile), and 99 percent of the drivers there didn’t know about it.

The operator is still receiving complaints three weeks later.

 

WikiLots

Mark Wright

Mark Zuckerberg sent me a check the other day, enclosed in a thank-you card that read, “Thanks for your data. Here’s our royalty payment for its use. Keep up the good work. BTW, I’m wearing an Edward Snowden mask to this year’s FB company Halloween party. Bwaahaahaa.”

Then I awoke and realized it was all a dream. Nobody’s paying me for access to my personal information. Darn.

It was still early, so I went back to sleep.

Then Julian Assange texted me. His message read: “We believe everyone has a right to free parking. So, we’ve started a website called WikiLots, which will locate and aggregate your vehicle’s parked location 24/7, using data already being broadcast by your vehicle and augmented by fixed and mobile cameras (typically plate-reader-equipped police cars). WikiLots will set the world free, free, free…”

Then I awoke and realized it was all a nightmare. Nobody cares or tracks where I drive or park, do they? Nah.

In real life, I read this recent article in the Wall Street Journal (When Your Car Is Spying on You) in which Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., observes that Nissan plans to have affordable driverless vehicles on the market in 2020. Those vehicles, he says, will automatically share a lot of data about us.

“Nothing is stopping private operators from creating databases of plate numbers, faces, and identities — cross referenced by matching photos you and others post online on your Facebook profiles and elsewhere. These will be indexed by place of residence. Stores will know who you are the minute their cameras catch your plate arriving in their parking lots.”

That means a row full of occupied parking spaces is basically just data on a stick. It’s a yummy treat for any entity — corporate or government — with a sweet tooth for information about who we are, what we do, where we go and what we like.

What role should parking play as this new era of über-data dawns? Is the parking profession meant to promote its benefits or defend users against its excesses? Are parking pros destined to be proactive participants or passive bystanders in this trend?

It’s still early. Sleep is so tempting — yet suddenly so elusive.

 

Solar Roadways Make Headlines

Isaiah Mouw

Remember Solar Roadways from the general session presentation at the 2013 IPI Conference and Expo in Ft. Lauderdale? Scott and Julie Brusaw, inventors and co-founders of Solar Roadways, introduced their concept of solar road panels and what they can do for the parking industry and the world (click here to read the feature about their project in The Parking Professional). If you had the opportunity to sit in on the presentation, you witnessed something special. And now, the little company with big aspirations is moving closer to fulfilling those aspirations.

Just this week the Brusaws announced on their Facebook page that they were “chosen by our peers as a finalist in the World Technology Awards in the category of Energy. We are amazed to find ourselves in the company of so many remarkable people. Some of the other finalists in various categories include: Mark Zuckerberg, Sal Khan, Andreessen Horowitz, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, Bill and Melinda Gates and Elon Musk. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in N.Y. in November. Our selection as finalists means that we are now Fellows of the World Technology Network. What an honor!”

There’s more news, too: Solar Roadways’ short documentary directed by Michele Ohayon, which was shown at the 2013 IPI Conference & Expo, will be featured at the Big Eddy film festival in New York on September 21. You might even be on a date with your significant other and have this short documentary shown at the movie theatre before your movie starts. That’s because thanks to a partnership with Spotlight Cinema Network, the Solar Roadways documentary will screen before features at all Regency and Landmark Theatres between August 23 and September 19.

The Brusaws hope to pave the world with solar panel roadways, but it all begins with a parking lot. It’s pretty cool that we all saw the inception of this movement. What can parking professionals do to support their work? You can help spread the word on social media. I am a big fan of TED Talks and think that Scott Brusaw would make an excellent TED speaker. You can nominate him here as a TED Speaker. I think it would speak volumes if parking professionals helped get him chosen, to help further their message and concept of Solar Roadways.

There’s more ahead for solar roads and parking lots. Stay tuned!

Cloud Computing and Parking

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the great paradigm shifts in technology currently happening today is the use of the cloud. How it will eventually affect the parking industry is an open issue. It is already certain to affect how we store and process data and conduct business going forward. Operators and parking administrators must understand the implications and how best to deal with the cloud.Parking is currently affected by several changes:

  • Municipalities and cities have identified parking as a major source of income.
  • On-and off-street parking converge more and more into one business executed by one and the same party.
  • Road pricing, city tolls, and parking have started to converge.
  • Technology infrastructure and capabilities have changed radically.
  • As a consequence, things that have been tied together or tied to a location can now be executed independent of location or time constraints (e.g. identification or payment).

In this highly competitive, globalized world, the cloud provides those who embrace it with a competitive advantage. Competition usually mandates growth. Cloud technology will continue to grow faster, achieving more geographical coverage with less effort and investmentIn most cases, different parking management systems come from different vendors, to be installed and used at geographically diverse parking lots. Cloud technology is ideally suited to not only retrieve information, but to also control devices or applications remotely, independent of locations or time of day. Centralized cloud control is not only cheaper to implement, but also standardizes the way car parks can be managed, leading to reduced training and operational costs. And most importantly, it allows the automation of repetitive tasks, which leads to reduce cost combined with an increase in process quality.

Car park operators offer new types of services over the internet. Using the internet opens a totally new business domain and a path to new revenue sources. Cloud technology allows car park operators to benefit from direct access to consumers and engage in new business-to-consumer business models.

In addition, adopters can avoid costly upgrades, improve compliance through effective standardization, reduce service and overhead costs, and can improve data security and availability.

 

Smart Cities = Smart Drivers

eugene_tsyrklevich_photo

Whether you drive in Barcelona, San Francisco, or Sydney, parking your car can be a nightmare!

Every day millions of drivers around the world get stuck in traffic jams and waste precious hours looking for parking. Fortunately, smart technologies such as real-time traffic updates and real-time parking availability are starting to change that.

Combined with a meteoric rise in the number of connected vehicles on the road, new traffic technologies are starting to have a real effect on reducing traffic and congestion along with eliminating unnecessary time wasted driving around looking for parking.

To address the issue of unnecessary pollution and driver stress caused by searching for a parking space, a recent project focused on a real-time space availability service that received data on the number of available spaces from participating parking lots every few minutes. This information was then relayed in real-time to drivers using mobile and car navigation systems.

The project began to become more and more relevant when studied in relation to on-street/surface parking lots: Multi-story parking garages have the required barrier and/or loop infrastructure to calculate the number of available spaces, but surface parking lots and street spaces generally do not have any mechanisms to do the same thing.

Drivers could make intelligent parking decisions and drive to where there was space availability. They could see what their chances of finding a street parking space were based on the day and time of their arrival, even in locations that had no barriers or sensors installed. This also had a positive environmental effect as it reduced congestion, noise pollution, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

In terms of providing the information to end users, the data was integrated into car/mobile apps, which were now able to know final destination and current traffic conditions in real-time. The car/mobile app was able to give various options to the driver. An interesting element to the project was the use of historical payment transaction data to provide forecasts of parking space availability in the future.

The project went live with the City of Seattle and Westminster Council in London in 2012. I look forward to sharing more about it on Sunday, May 19 during the IPI Conference & Expo–hope to see you then!

 

 

Joining the Smart Revolution

Brett Wood

I’ve heard a lot of questions lately about the evolution of parking. I started thinking and researching and found that, well, we have come a long way. I recently gave a presentation about this evolution from horse and buggy to car, from wind-up meter to multi-space paystation, from parking hotel (yes, that existed) to mega-sustainable, community-friendly parking garage. My conclusion was that we have transcended evolution and merged quite nicely into revolution. One of the reasons for this revolution is that our customers now have the world in their pockets.

With the rapid rise of cell phone ownership in the U.S., it’s only a matter of time before we see a massive shift in how our users interact with and pay for parking in our communities. According to research by the Pew Research Center, 88 percent of Americans own cell phones. Even more important, 46 percent of Americans own smartphones and use those devices for more than phone calls; this trend is escalating quickly, with another estimated 10 percent bump anticipated by the end of this year.

With these statistics and the continued evolution of the cell phone, is it any surprise that pay-by-cell payment options are popping up in communities everywhere? Pay-by-cell is not a new concept, but its acceptance is at an all-time high.

Consider the benefits:

  • User pays capital and maintenance costs.
  • User only pays for the time that they park.
  • User can receive notifications before they go over time.
  • Implementation is low cost (sometimes no cost) to the city.
  • Integration of smartphone applications allows for wayfinding, payment, management, enforcement, and communications, all through the user’s smartphone.

Even though that 12 percent of non-cell phone users represents approximately 30 million people, we are getting closer to a society that is plugged in and tuned in through their cell phones. The parking industry is poised and ready to capitalize on this evolution of American society. So, reach in your pocket, grab your smartphone, and join the revolution!

Piloted Parking

Isaiah Mouw

An estimated 10 million vehicle accidents occur each year and many of them take place while parking. Audi thinks they’ve found a solution with their piloted parking system. Similar to the Google driverless car, the Audi parking system will rely on ultrasound or cameras affixed to the vehicle to locate empty parking spaces within a garage or parking lot and conveniently park itself without a driver. You have to watch this video to truly appreciate it. It can even parallel park.

Benefits to the driver include saving time, fewer accidents, and not having the Seinfeld moment of losing one’s vehicle in a garage, as the vehicle will return to the driver with a simple tap of a button on one’s smartphone. In the not so distant future, anxious teenagers will no longer have to worry about parallel parking in front of an intimidating driver instructor; they’ll just have to know how to operate their phone. Questions from parking professionals are numerous, from how this will work in a controlled environment, how to stop it from parking in reserved spaces, protocols for an accident, and what happens in the always-humorous “standoff” situations.

Many argue that the freedom and fun in being able to step on the gas pedal and speed down a highway outweighs any benefits of a driverless car, but few would be against avoiding the drive through a busy garage to locate a parking space. One thing is for sure: technology like this will more than likely dominate the roads in the next decade, making me think how this will affect our industry, specifically valet and parking access and revenue control systems.

Defining Moment

Henry Wallmeyer

Professor Blimm at Villanova University gave my Expository Writing Class (it sounded like an easy A) an assignment to write a Screen Shot 2013-02-08 at 11.15.34 AMpaper that defined something.  Pretty simple right? Until the catch: This time, it was that we could not begin the paper with “The dictionary defines…”  There went the foundation for my paper.

Great story Henry, but what does that have to do with parking?

Over the last several years, the use of technology has accelerated in the parking and transportation industry. And with these advances come new terms and changes to the definitions of words we thought we knew. Here at IPI, we often are asked by the media, our members, and the public for the definition of  high-tech parking items that are becoming more prevalent. I am happy to be able to now respond to these inquires by saying that “IPI’s What’s What in Parking Technology defines…”

IPI’s Technology committee, co-chaired by Mike Drow, CAPP, of Standard Parking, and Peter Lange (a.k.a. Johnny Parking), of Texas A&M University, identified the need for a document to define those techy terms and help parking professionals better communicate with their peers, vendors, customers, and the media. Through a great collaborative effort by the committee, What’s What in Parking Technology: A Glossary of Parking Technology Terms was created.

With nearly 100 definitions that cover Access Control, Video Analytics, and everything in between, this is an amazing industry resource. Use it to ensure that your employees (especially new ones) know the terminology they’ll use a day-to-day basis in the office and with the media and public.

What’s What in Parking Technology: A Glossary of Parking Technology Terms has been mailed with the February issue of The Parking Professional. You can also download it free at parking.org/techglossary.

Look for updates to this glossary, too. As we all know, parking technology is always changing.

Taking the People out of Parking

Dave Feehan

A recent report on the CBS program “60 Minutes” featured robots and, among other things, suggested that our jobless recovery was in large part due to companies buying robots to take the place of human workers. Robots were shown building cars, moving stock around warehouses, dispensing boarding passes, and vacuuming floors. Some robots were hardware, while others were software.

As I pulled out of a parking garage in Pittsburgh after the broadcast, I couldn’t help but think how things have changed in the parking industry. An automated ticket spitter greeted me when I arrived. Another machine allowed me to pay for my parking without any human intervention. The old ticket window where an attendant used to sit was closed. A third robot accepted my paid ticket and opened the gate for me.

Many of my colleagues in the parking business are fond of calling it a people business, because the cars we park are driven by people. But as I noted in an earlier blog post, California and several other states are now passing legislation allowing driverless vehicles to operate on public roads. Google, Audi, Toyota, and other companies have invested millions in new technologies to develop driverless vehicles and systems.

We can expect that many routine maintenance and safety tasks in parking facilities may soon be done without much aid of humans. Are we really in the people business? It’s possible to imagine driverless cars parking in automated garages, having batteries charged, and repairs made without any human intervention in just a few years. What implications do these trends have for the parking industry?

Parking and IoT: The Internet of Things

Helen Sullivan

IoT stands for the Internet of Things, and it’s been dubbed by many as the next stage in the evolution of the internet. The word “next” doesn’t seem quite right, though, because it appears to already be here. If IoT isn’t part of your vocabulary now, it will be.

The effects on transportation, urban mobility, and life as we know it is huge–certainly in ways beyond what my non-technical mind can grasp, but I know that many parking professionals and parking equipment suppliers and service providers are already at the cutting-edge.

The Internet of Things came up when IPI Executive Director Shawn Conrad and I were meeting last week with Laurens Eckelboom of Parkmobile, and David Cummins of Xerox, co-chairs of IPI’s new Smart Parking Alliance.  And, I recently discovered that the Consumer Electronics Show dubbed 2013 the Year of IoT, as reported in a guest blog post on Forbes.com by Robert Raskin, Founder of Living in Digital Times.

The “internet of everything” is the focus of a CISCO Systems, Inc. 60-second ad called Tomorrow Starts Here now airing in some television markets, and is explained in a Cisco YouTube video. An internet search will find no shortage of references to IoT!

As with any big idea or innovation, IoT is not without its challenges, as outlined in this Wired blog by Andrew Rose, which warns of potential privacy and security issues.

I’m very eager to hear your thoughts on the Internet of Things — and what you see as its  impact on parking now, and in the future.  When I speak with reporters about parking, I like to bring these ideas to life with real-world examples.

Solar Roadways and Parking Lots

Isaiah Mouw

I recently stumbled across this video about Solar Roadways. The concept involves turning roadways and parking lots into solar panel road surfaces that generate electricity. Inventor and co-founder of the Solar Roadways project Scott Brushaw explains, “There are 25,000 square miles of road surfaces, parking lots and driveways in the lower 48 states. If we covered that with solar panels with just 15 percent efficiency, we’d produce three times more electricity than this country uses on an annual basis and that’s almost enough to power the entire world. Roads are collecting heat anyway; this thing collects the power and stores it.”

One concern was creating glass strong enough to support the heaviest loads under the most extreme conditions, but they believe they’ve created a weatherproof, high-strength surface that’s up to the task. But the biggest concern is, of course, cost. One of these solar panels (12’x12’) can cost up to $7,000, and the plans to cover the roadways would call for billions of these panels. Do the math.

The Solar Roadway project recently received a $750,000.00 grant to build the first solar surface parking lot. With an estimated industry average cost of $4,000.00 per space to construct a parking lot, this $750,000 is not as large as it first seems. These solar panels consist of embedded LEDs that can be used to create crosswalks or traffic warnings. They could also be used to mark parking spaces. Imagine being able to change your layout design any day of the week, depending on your demand. These panels will also have the capability to charge electric vehicles while parked. The system will warm itself during the winter to melt away any snow or ice. The Solar Roadways team should have the parking lot completed in November and will be presenting the results shortly after.

This is not just a sustainability issue. Yes, it is very sustainable as the renewable energy from the proposed Solar Roadways project would literally cut greenhouse gases in half. But it may also make economic sense sometime in the future. The cost of petroleum-based asphalt continues to rise, while solar power has been falling at a rate of 7 percent per year for the last 30 years.  As technology improves each year, the cost of solar technologies should continue to drop. Solar panel surface parking lots could pay for themselves quickly as they generate renewable energy in the future.

To me, solar road surfaces is an important aspect  of the future of parking. Not this decade or even the next, but down the road, I think we will all be parking on solar surfaces.

 

Parking Efficiency, but at What Cost?

Isaiah Mouw

This fall, Starbucks will accept payments through a mobile app developed by a company named Square. Customers will be able to pay by holding up their phones and allowing Starbucks employees to automatically charge the customers’ cards.

We are already seeing apps like this in the parking industry through pay-by-phone parking vendors. But Starbucks is taking it a step further–soon, their customers will not even need to take their phones or wallets out of their pockets. The Square mobile app will use the phone’s GPS system to detect that a customer walked in and will automatically connect the customer to the store’s computerized checkout software. Square CEO Jack Dorsey explains, “You can actually walk into a merchant, keep your phone in pocket, keep your wallet in your pocket, and a picture of you pops up on the register. … You can just say, ‘I’m Laurie, and I’d like a cappuccino,” and your card is charged in the background.”[1]

Having visited nearly every booth at the IPI Conference & Expo, I don’t doubt parking vendors are exploring payment methods through companies such as Square as I type this entry; we are already very close thanks to the use of technologies such as near field communications (NFC) and quick response (QR) codes. Imagine driving into a gated parking garage, running an errand, and driving out without stopping. Entering the garage in your vehicle activates the mobile GPS parking timer, and exiting the garage stops the mobile GPS timer that charges your account. No stopping. No vehicle idling. No cash handling. No cashiering. No pay-on-foot machine. Nothing.

Some people would love this. As an introvert, sometimes it is difficult for me to carry on a conversation with the gas attendant about the weather or the recent rise in gasoline costs. On the other hand, I often find myself wanting to take a Louisville Slugger to the automated fuel dispenser, after playing 20 questions with the screen: “Would you like a car wash today?” “Would you like to use your debit card to save $0.03 per gallon?” “Are you a loyalty member?”

I go to Starbucks nearly every day. The employees know I like an extra shot of mocha, and they know I’m allergic to wheat. They know the names of my wife and children. They even got me a birthday card on my actual birthday.

I’m not advocating for or against automated cashiering–there are many benefits to both. I just want to challenge you take a look at your customer base and see what it is they want. Are they business men and women in a hurry to get to work and get home, or are they grieving hospital guests looking for comfort and a smile from a friendly cashier? Or can both systems be implemented blending automated cashiering with an employee present during peak periods? Technology has done miracles for the parking industry and saved our owners and clients millions of dollars in captured revenue. Just make sure that as a parking and transportation professional, you are doing your homework and managing the technology efficiently, before a machine takes over the operation and the human connection gets lost in techno space.

 

Parking: Coming of Age

L. Dennis Burns

Has big business finally found its way to parking? Consider the following:

  •  3M has acquired Federal APD (PARCS), PIPS (LPR), Sirit (AVI), and VES (a toll service provider located in southern California). 3M currently operates a division that focuses on transportation, but this is significant entre’ into the parking industry.
  • Affiliated Computer Systems (ACS) became part of Xerox which also has a transportation division that includes commercial vehicle operations, electronic toll collections, motor vehicle services, on/off street parking, photo enforcement, public transport, and transportation management.
  • Serco (the largest company you’ve never heard of) is the systems integrator behind the SFpark program.
  • Zeag, which recently acquired Magnetic Corporation, was recently acquired by a large Swiss company.

Initially, I worried that this could be the end of innovation and the beginning of a new corporate mentality that might become pervasive, but then these negative thoughts were drowned out by the following:

  • This investment in our industry is a reflection of the fact that parking is being recognized for the important industry that it’s become.
  • New investment from large multi-national corporations will mean new advancements for the whole industry.
  • The effect of thought leaders such as Don Shoup, Casey Jones, CAPP, and others has created new awareness and spurred huge government investments through agencies such as FHWA and others.
  • Innovative governmental agencies such as the Seattle Department of Transportation and the Washington D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) are moving forward with creative research and implementation programs even without big federal grants.
  • Transportation planners and transportation demand management (TDM) professionals are becoming more engaged with parking industry practitioners to create new partnerships.
  • Universities are beginning to create sustainable transportation degree programs.
  • The number of smaller technology-based start-ups are increasing and interest by venture capitalists is increasing.

After some reflection, it seems to me we are on the verge a whole new era of growth and advancement. But then, I am always so negative.

Shared Spaces

Isaiah Mouw

A recent flight offered me the time to read ReThinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking by Eran Ben-Joseph, Ph.D.  (The Parking Professional cover story, May 2012. [PDF]) One concept that caught my attention was that of shared space designs for streets and parking lots.

Shared space involves the redesign of streets/land areas to blur distinctions between drivers and other users by removing clear-cut rules, signage, and traffic lights that should prompt caution, low speeds, and a negotiated approach to the right-of-way. In other words, removing the typical safety boundaries in a street or parking area creates an intentional unsafe environment. Creating an unsafe and unfamiliar environment causes drivers and users to be extra cautious.

Sound ridiculous?

Shared spaces has been widely used over the past 20 years in cities such as Delft, Netherlands; Bohmte, Germany; and Brighton City, U.K. Designers of a shared space plan in the Delft state, “Separating traffic flows blinkers people and causes an increase in speed. Because everyone has their one lane, people take less account of other road users.”[1]

This is an example of why more pedestrians are killed crossing the street at marked crosswalks than unmarked crosswalks. Pedestrians compensate for the “safe” environment of a marked crossing by being less cautious about the oncoming traffic.  The book, Target Risk, by Gerald J.S. Wilde discusses Sweden’s efforts to change from driving on the left-hand side of the road to driving on the right. People compensated for the new traffic changes by driving more carefully. During the next year, traffic fatalities dropped 17 percent, before eventually returning gradually to their previous levels.

Of course, a concept as radical as this does not come without its complaints. Coventry City, U.K., recently implemented several shared space designs in several of its town junctions in part of redevelopment plan for the upcoming Olympic Games. Many city residents are not happy with this plan, leading to a petition with more than 700 town signatures to put an end to such designs, as well as a Facebook page entitled “End Coventry’s ‘Shared Spaces’ Experiment.”

I am not advocating parking professionals take down all their parking and traffic flow signage and open up their parking lots to be used as public free-for-alls, but this concept is definitely worth looking into in more detail.

Parking Hits Close to Home

Frank L. Giles

The Wall Street Journal recently ran a story on Parking Panda Corp., a small parking company operating in Baltimore, Md., and Washington D.C.

Parking Panda helps parking facilities rent spaces to people looking for parking.  Here’s the cool part; the parking facilities that Parking Panda serves are not 800-space parking decks or sprawling surface lots. Instead, they are at city residences.  This small web-based company helps residents become parking facility managers by renting their driveways, garages, and carports to parkers.  This allows residents and homeowners to make money from unused driveway space on their properties.

Of course Parking Panda isn’t the only driveway sharing company on the scene.  Others such as Parkcirca of San Francisco and SpotHero of Chicago offer the same service, carving out yet another niche in the parking industry.

This type of driveway sharing is becoming more and more popular in big cities where parking can be costly and scarce during big events.  It also gives the everyday homeowner a window into to parking industry.

Can this new parking niche give the lay person a new perspective and even a new appreciation for the parking industry?  I hope so, but in any case, for many city dwellers parking is starting to hit closer to home.

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.

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.

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have Autobots!

Frank L. Giles

In the movie “Transformers,” the self-driving cars that transform into giant robots are called Autonomous Robotic Organisms, or “Autobots” for short. It seems that our friends at Google have given us an autonomous vehicle that drives itself just like in the movie. Ok, it doesn’t transform but I’m sure they’re working on that.

Google says that the car has been driven for 200,000 miles without an accident. It’s outfitted with video cameras, radio sensors, and lasers to help it navigate city streets and will allow a driver-side passenger to take control if he/she so desires.

What does this mean? Will the roads truly be safer with robot cars driving instead of people? Will speeding ticket become a thing of the past? Or valet parking for that matter? Will our personal Autobots be able to pay for our parking wirelessly, drop us off in front of the building or venue, and then proceed to the parking deck on their own?

Let’s face it: we’ve had cars that park themselves for a few years now and they haven’t exactly changed the world, so only time will tell if these vehicles will be practical enough to catch on. If they do, they could affect everything from parking to auto insurance to taxi cabs…and they may be able to take out a few Decepticons as well.

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.

Get Ready for Google Glasses

Shawn Conrad

Here come Google Glasses, “a pair of computerized eyeglasses that streams data onto the lenses in front of your face,” according to Barbara Ortutay of the Associated Press.

Google’s “Project Glass” could be the most revolutionary advancement since the internet, but also the most dangerous obstacle to safe driving since texting. Map directions and available parking could be displayed inside the lenses, just above a driver’s line of sight. This is not some futuristic project, though reports indicate it’s safe to say they will not be available this year. Google has already given prototypes to a select few and Heads Up Displays (HUD) may be coming to our galaxy faster than you might think.

Here’s a video that helps describe how the glasses would work:

ARVE Error: no video ID

 

This would be one of Google’s first adventures in the hardware development. Don’t think Apple is far behind, either. According to a Forbes blog, Apple CEO Tim Cook was recently spotted at the headquarters of gaming behemoth VALVE, and a VALVE blogger indicated “wearable computing” is on the company’s radar screen.

Personally, anything this new, creative and technological is something I find exciting and intriguing. I’m afraid to even think of the implications for intrusive advertising. This new technology may give us a whole new view of the world, literally and figuratively. And if everyone starts wearing internet-enabled eyewear, you can be sure one of the things they will be doing at the same time is parking.

Based on the integration of advanced technology into parking over the past few years, I have no doubt this industry has the collective will, brain power, and vision to maximize whatever hi tech innovation is around the corner. Thoughts?