Public Private Partnerships
Because private entities tend to provide the software and public entities control and generate the data, public-private partnerships are critical to good parking management. Streetline has an impressive ecosystem of partners to develop everything from sensors to cloud computing to municipal financing options through a partnership with Citi. Effective collaboration will be key to fusing a data landscape currently riven by myriad approaches, formats, programs and jurisdictions.
Proving Out the Business Case
Benefits of smart parking for municipalities include: fewer attendants, better collection, higher throughput, better utilization and reduced emissions. User benefits include fuel and time savings, reduced hassle and more flexibility (e.g., the freedom to stay for dessert by extending parking remotely). Businesses potentially benefit from more customers and the opportunity to work with software developers to engage in targeted (location and demographic-specific) advertising for their services.
Of course, these systems aren’t free. Costs include sensors (if employed), data routers and labor associated with organizing and making data available.
Listing the elements of cost and value is easier than quantifying them, especially for parking, but a few studies do exist for ITS systems in general: a study examining ITS deployment in Beijing estimated an investment between 2005 and 2008 of 1.2 billion yuan, while the system’s social and economic payoffs added up to 26.8 billion yuan, a return on investment of 22 times. The state of Michigan completed a similar assessment, concluding that ITS is responsible for a savings of $134 million annually.
Descending the Learning Curve
Many challenges remain, of course. Data standardization is a persistent challenge, sensors are not 100 percent reliable, and data transfer delays lead to parking availability inaccuracies. Then there’s the issue of “placard abuse,” discussed in the Freakonomics segment. In Shoup’s backyard, the city of Los Angeles, up to 40 percent of parkers legally avoid paying for parking spaces, largely through the liberal distribution and use of handicap credentials. Such placard abuse drives twice as much parking revenue loss as negligent payers and poses a potentially large hurdle for smart parking systems that employ forms of congestion or demand-response pricing, since placard abusers are insensitive to price fluctuations and exact a growing financial toll on the system through lost revenue during high demand periods. (A “digital placard” may have a role to play here).
Nevertheless, the microcosm of smart parking provides a rare natural laboratory to test, multiply and scale the solutions for an instrumented, interconnected and intelligent transportation system as a whole. Despite some challenges, its opportunities -- data integration and standardization, innovative software to process and deliver the data, sensing technology, better municipal infrastructure planning with revised revenue streams, and business models built around empowering individual users through smartphones and connected vehicles -- are the nodes from which a transformed transportation network can ultimately emerge.
Image by Kay Dollfus via Shutterstock