A dynamic approach to solving parking problems

Parking departments are under growing pressure to improve parking revenue and provide an excellent service for motorists without increasing their spending, and with smaller budgets. A tall order for any organisation, and one of the key reasons why so many parking operators have turned to cashless parking providers as a cost-effective alternative to expensive on-street and car park payment machines.

The benefits of using mobile phone technology to collect parking revenue are clear; improved efficiency for the parking operator, more choice and convenience for the motorist and a more environmentally friendly service.

The most successful cashless parking providers achieve each of these benefits by making cashless parking products that are accessible to all motorists, utilising the full range of phone payment technologies from simple IVR payments to up-to-the-minute smartphone apps, QR codes and NFC Tags, in order to drive new and repeat users.

Parking operators using these services see both an increase in income and a reduction in costs from a revenue stream which does not rely upon collecting cash from high-maintenance pay and display machines. In some areas, cashless parking has been so successful at driving new efficiencies that parking operators have been able to remove or disable some pay and display machines and rely solely upon cashless parking with a cash option through local retailers.

We cannot ignore another valuable effect of running a highly successful cashless parking service - the incremental benefit to the environment that comes from having fewer maintenance and cash collection vans on the roads. One London Borough that offers cashless parking has seen its CO2 emissions drop drastically from 972 tonnes to 385 tonnes over a three year period. 

New innovations in parking technology and mobile phone integration are now helping to drive further benefits from cashless parking, with some very exciting opportunities opening up with the introduction of parking sensors. These sensors are small wireless devices fitted into the surface of a parking space to detect if the space is being used. This ‘space availability’ information is sent to a central database accessible to the parking operator so that it can see at a glance which spaces are free and which spaces are taken.

When integrated with a cashless parking mobile phone solution, this real-time parking information can be used to great effect. Motorists can see maps of available parking spaces which helps them to find a space and park quickly. This not only reduces traffic congestion but also increases parking income. At the same time PCNs can be issued more efficiently as CEOs can instantly see vehicles with expired parking sessions.

The SFpark Project

SFpark, part of the SFMTA (San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency), is running a project in San Francisco to evaluate how the collection and communication of real-time parking information can reduce traffic congestion and enable it to adjust parking fees in order to ensure that parking spaces are optimised at all times.

Using wireless parking sensors, the space availability data is collected in its data warehouse which also acts as the central repository for all parking related data, including parking transactions, parking rates and PCNs.  With all parking data available in one place, it is easier to study the interactions and quickly make changes to the various elements of the parking eco-system. 

As stated on the SFpark website, “SFpark charges the lowest possible hourly rate to achieve the right level of parking availability. In areas and at times where it is difficult to find a parking space, rates will increase incrementally until at least one space is available on each block most of the time. In areas where open parking spaces are plentiful, rates will decrease until some of the empty spaces fill.

Through the smartphone app, motorists can see on a map where the available parking spaces are and how much they will be charged to park there.

This innovative parking technology opens a wealth of opportunities for all parking operators. Getting motorists into parking spaces more quickly is clearly beneficial for the motorist and also for the environment. Reducing the amount of time spent driving around searching for a space to park in saves time and reduces traffic congestion and CO2 emissions. It also brings great benefits for the local economy as motorists spend less time parking and more time enjoying the visit to their destination.

The biggest benefits, however, lie with parking operators, enabling them to respond to the demand for parking spaces by monitoring space occupancy and adjusting parking fees in order to reduce the number of empty parking spaces. Maximising the revenue potential for each parking space puts parking operators in a powerful position to take control of their parking resources to deliver greater efficiencies and reduce waste.

Integration with a cashless parking solution is essential for the communication of the spaces and adjusted parking fees. With both systems synchronised in real-time, the space availability data and changes to the parking fees implemented by parking operators can be seamlessly and immediately pushed to the cash parking mobile platform.

The ability to see maps showing where the available spaces are located on the same application used to pay for parking is highly convenient for the motorist, making the process of parking and paying to park quick and easy.

So cashless parking providers should take note: the best phone parking solutions need to do more than meet today’s demands for phone parking solutions. For long term sustainability, they must have mobile phone technologies and IT platforms that are flexible and robust enough to integrate with dynamic parking solutions. Real-time information provides parking operators with the ability to maximise revenue from all their parking spaces and mobile phone integration with a cashless parking provider gives them the platform to communicate this information to motorists.

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