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Building More Parking is Not Always the Answer

August 16, 2018

Patrick Noon

Cities and suburban towns face a variety of serious parking issues. Visitors are frustrated that they can’t find parking and residents struggle with visitors who park in their neighborhoods. Merchants rightfully demand strictly enforced parking turnover to drive business, and workers take premium customer parking spots all day while others get parking tickets because they can’t find all day parking. 


Everyone has fed the meter beyond the “allowed” time and done the two-hour move and re-park the car dance. Ride hailing, delivery services, new bike lanes and parking space conversion bring even more complexity to this equation by adding more vehicles to the road along with fewer parking spaces. Some cities are now removing parking requirements for new developments while other cities are intentionally reducing the amount of parking a new development is allowed to build. Not having enough parking spaces and not knowing exact passenger pick up locations forces Uber and Lyft drivers to double park, creating traffic backups, road rage and general frustration. 


We have all heard the old statistic that 30 percent of traffic are drivers looking for a place to park. Is that number still correct or has it become worse? The solution proposed by most is MORE - more parking spaces, more garages, and more parking restrictions. We respectfully disagree.


 


Data Defines the Problem


A parking technology company telling cities not to build more spaces? Well, not exactly. The problem is not always a lack of parking spaces. Many times, the problem, or at least part of the problem, is a lack of data. 


Data and the information and knowledge that flows from accurate real-time data is needed to efficiently manage the billions of dollars in parking investments we have already made or are about to build. Real time accurate, granular data is needed to lead drivers to open parking spaces. 


Historical data is needed to inform the decision makers, business people and local residents as to what the real problems are, and of equal importance show them what all the options are to solve those problems.


 Many parking managers do not have access to the data they need to identify the underlying causes and solutions to the problems they face before they are asked to develop proposals and make decisions. 


Until recently, this accurate, real time, granular data to manage parking assets was not available. Most times this data was unreliable, expensive, came with cumbersome street furniture and was tied to one vendor with problematic hardware and software. 


What if other industries managed their assets the way we manage parking spaces? Imagine if an airline managed seats without knowing who booked a flight. OK, if you’ve flown recently, it might seem that’s how they do it, but I have been assured they actually know who is on the plane. 


A better example might be a hotel. Could you imagine a successful hotel chain not knowing every guest in every single one of their rooms? These assets, airplane seats, hotel rooms and others, are expensive to build, maintain and run, so great expertise and energy is applied to their management. 


Parking spaces are some of the most valuable assets in the city affecting more citizens on a daily basis then any other asset. Isn’t it time we managed parking spaces accordingly? Imagine your traffic and parking managers with access to accurate, historical, granular, holistic and real-time data for every parking space correlating minute by minute vehicle occupancy to time of day, seasonal activity, daily migration patterns, special events, parking price fluctuations, weather and so on? 


Think of the power the city parking administrator would have when explaining the correct parking solutions before the city council armed with the knowledge that comes from that type of data. Think of navigating drivers straight to an open parking space or a previously unknown parking area just waiting for their business. 


 


Data Defines the Solution


Maybe the Nav App tells the driver the town is all parked up and the driver decides it’s a better night for ride sharing. All of these solutions come from the free flow of real data, helping to solve the parking problem without un-necessarily building more parking garages. 


Before building more parking, enacting more regulations or restricting access, invest first in capturing data to create an accurate understanding of what the specific problems are, and from there, what the specific set of solutions are to solve those problems. A new parking garage may be needed, but maybe through data you discover it can be smaller.


The problem is not always a lack of parking spaces. Many times, the problem, or at least part of the problem, is a lack of data. 


 


The data drought is over. No one knows when community service officers first used chalk to mark tires, but we do know parking meters were put to use in 1932. The problem is we are still using chalk and outdated parking meters alongside the crowd-sourced, big data power of Waze and other navigation apps that are challenging our current way of managing parking. Waze is here to stay so we need to upgrade our parking and traffic management technology to match it. 


Capturing per-space, real-time parking occupancy data and sharing that data with the creative minds around the world allows for new apps that will increase our efficiency in ways that we have not even begun to imagine today. 


Real-time mobile app navigation, frictionless mobile payments from your smart phone from any vehicle you happen to be in made before you get out of your car, event-based pricing, human-behavior-based pricing, reservations, accurate and inexpensive overstay and unauthorized parking detection are now a reality.


 We can give workers long term parking in spaces that are not desired by short term parkers. Through pricing controls, we can encourage parking in lots that are short walks away from the downtown, lessening traffic and congestion. We can lessen traffic by encouraging ride sharing such as Uber and Lyft while managing quick and convenient pick up and drop off spaces. 


We can even work with Waze and other navigation apps by providing them the data that they need to enhance driver’s experiences. What more is right around the corner with the right data in the right hands?


Cities, universities and enterprises are faced with an ever increasing and complicated litany of problems around parking. Providing them data, knowledge, and insight to make the correct decisions has never been more important. 


The past has been about building more parking. The future is about managing the expensive parking assets that we are blessed with. With data, you may find the new expensive parking garage may not be needed, or perhaps it could be smaller. The right data gives you the tools to analyze, calculate, compare and look at other solutions before you build. 


Patrick Noon is Business Development Manager at Nwave. He can be reached at patrick@nwave.io


 



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