Intelligent Technologies Help Put ‘Service’ Back Into Parking Services
By Ashley Bijster
Parking enforcement is no longer preoccupied with penalizing drivers for wrongdoing. Far from it. Today, it’s an essential component of the so-called “Smart City” concept – where facilities, services and accessibility are aligned fully with the needs and expectations of an increasingly empowered and digitally mobile population.
Thankfully, the UK parking industry recognizes that, first and foremost, it’s responsible for delivering a service. And to be effective, the focus of any service has to be on the service user/customer.
More cars are on the road than ever before, and the pressure on the UK’s aging road infrastructure and the finite number of parking facilities has never been greater. Add to that the economic woes of its struggling “High Streets” and the ever-faster pace of everyday life, and a clear picture begins to emerge. Effective traffic management has never been more important.
If the High Streets are difficult to get to, if parking a car is perceived as an insurmountable obstacle – or is loaded in favor of others – and if the roads around shops and leisure and entertainment venues are considered to be congested and unsafe, people will go elsewhere.
Fair and appropriate enforcement will always have an important role to play in effective traffic management. But it’s just part of delivering a much wider service. Technology is helping to keep eyes focused on the real priorities and the real objectives – to revitalize the heart of towns and cities, to minimize congestion and improve accessibility, and most important, to minimize stress and make life easier for responsible motorists.
Significantly, the technologies are also converging, creating an entirely new dynamic. For the first time, there’s scope for drivers to not only take real responsibility for their own actions, but also experience, first-hand, the real benefits of effective enforcement. This represents an exciting development for all road users and, without doubt, is helping to change behaviors in a positive way.
Consider, for example, the use of vehicle detection sensors for informing motorists about the availability of parking spaces, not just for “draconian” enforcement purposes. And ANPR and CCTV systems can be linked to ever more advanced cashless payment systems to take the worry out of paying for a parking space – not just used as a means of “Big Brother” enforcement.
Technology is helping to change drivers’ mindsets, better enabling them to make better decisions when it comes parking in and around town and city centers. And there are clear signs that motorists are responding to this shift toward service-led solutions – even when it comes to online evidence and payment options for parking contraventions.
The use of real-time data and the adoption of new technologies are increasing all of the time. New apps to capitalize on developments in GPS and related technologies are opening up new possibilities. Advances in RFID will continue to increase traffic management capabilities. And mobile payment technologies are improving all of the time. Such advances are helping UK communities to move toward a culture where the emphasis is much more on empowerment, self-service and convenience.
This, in turn, raises awareness of two very important factors: the importance of personal responsibility, and the need for everyone to recognize the value of fair access to our towns and cities – for employers and employees, for retailers and shoppers, for service providers and service users, and so on.
Educating and informing the driving public will always be key. So too is the need to ensure that high-quality training of enforcement personnel is maintained at all times. I’m delighted, therefore, that my presidency coincides with the BPA’s new partnership with the “awarding organization” WAMITAB, which is delivering the most comprehensive training modules ever introduced for UK enforcement agencies.
Intelligent parking solutions where the focus is on customer service and an unwavering commitment to effective training and education will be my guiding principles as the next President of the British Parking Association.
Ashley Bijster, the BPA’s Senior Vice President and Incoming President, is Managing Director of Bristol, England-based Imperial Civil Enforcement Solutions, “the UK’s most experienced provider of parking, environmental and traffic management systems.” She had more than 15 years’ managerial experience in local government IT and seven years within the enforcement sector before joining Imperial in 2007. Her career has encompassed training, sales, marketing and operational management. Contact her at email@example.com