Arguably the most significant development to have impacted the parking industry to date was the decriminalisation of parking offences enabled through the Road Traffic Act 1991. While decriminalisation represented a major change to the way the system was administered and enforced, it did not necessarily change the parking experience for the user – aside from sparing them a criminal conviction where contravening regulation.
However, today, we stand on the brink of the first major revolution in parking that will fundamentally improve the user’s experience. Like many industries, the parking industry has the potential to benefit greatly from the so-called data revolution. With levels of parking stress high and with a clear policy mandate, local authorities are keen to embrace new innovations that will enable their parking stock to be optimised with a view to maximising the obtainable benefit that parking services and parking management can deliver.
To this end, local authorities across London are beginning to actively engage in the data revolution with Westminster City Council widely acknowledged to be taking a lead with the initial evaluation of its ‘Connected Parking Initiatives’ project soon to be published. Meanwhile, the BPA has also been exploring opportunities for integrating parking and technology through its Parking 20:20 workstream.
Leveraging big data and the Internet of Things to ‘drive’ a seamless parking experience
The notion of parking ever being a ‘seamless experience’ is a difficult one to comprehend for most London motorists. Evidence indicates that parking is the most stressful component of motoring and the activity is fraught with anxieties, particularly where parking in an unfamiliar area where neither the local highway network nor local parking restrictions are known to the motorist. However, this does not have to be the case. The emergence and subsequent take-up of smart phone technology within society dictates that more people have access to more data at their fingertips than ever before and often data is provided in real-time. Statistica (2018) estimate the UK’s smartphone penetration rate to currently stand at 73 per cent, while they forecast it to rise to 80 per cent by 2022.
Admittedly, the notion of ‘seamless experience’ represents more of an aspiration or an ideal than a truism. Parking can never be truly seamless for as long as there is someone else to dive into a parking space just before you; however, it can be made seamless more often and hopefully, more often than not.
A particular opportunity is presented though the use of smartphone apps and parking and in-vehicle sensors. Explore some of their potential uses attempting to make parking ‘more seamless’:
- Finding a parking space - Case Study: Parking sensors and real-time information – the future? The case of Westminster City Council and Appy Parking
- Paying for parking - Case Study: Dynamic pricing in San Francisco