The Demand for Real-time Parking Availability Data
By John Couvrette, T2 Regional Vice President
Less than five years ago we were told that once smart phone adoption rates exceeded 50 percent of cell phone users, we would see an explosion of applications taking advantage of the new mobile user. Just three years ago, only 35 percent of Americans owned smart phones. As of January 2014, the smart phone ownership rose to 58 percent of American adults.
How often do you now hear, “Is there an app for that?”
The parking industry has seen a complete technological transformation over the last five years, introducing numerous technologies that enable advancements to existing parking operations. Parkers are now able to benefit from the integration of multiple data sets streaming into the palm of their hands.
As the availability of real-time occupancy data sets grow in parking, the value of this data grows exponentially.
Intelligent Transportation’s Foundation
Our friends in the intelligent transportation systems industry (ITS) have observed the advancement of and demand for parking technologies, and are eager to integrate this collected data into their existing systems, as the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITSA) projects 2015 to be a $67 billion market in the U.S. alone.
While ITS has spent several decades building up the infrastructure to assist motorists to arrive at their destinations, the first decade focused solely on highways. This past decade built upon that foundation, adding arterial roadways and including traffic signals.
The red, yellow, green you see on your mapping systems today is a result of the proliferation of ITS technologies, the assimilation of data and the infrastructure to feed drivers this data in real time. Guidance systems not only offer driving directions to escort users to their destination, they also provide optional routes that depend upon real-time traffic conditions. When city streets were added to the ITS data set, it was hailed for providing and connecting city planners and motorists with the “last mile” to the grid. But the real truth is that the final mile was yet to come—and with it a world of opportunity opened for the modern parking industry.
Demand for Real-Time Parking Data
If I need to get to 550 Broadway in downtown San Diego, Google maps will tell me with great accuracy how to get there. However, once I am there, where do I park? With this example, it is important to note that approximately 30 percent of any downtown traffic can be attributed to drivers looking for parking. Even with precise, direct guidance to a specified destination, I will still need to find a parking space.
Fortunately, these real-time data sets in the ITS world can easily integrate with the growing occupancy data set in the parking industry. Web service applications have been deployed in numerous locations that gather collected real-time parking availability and feed it into smart phone applications like Streetline, ParkMe, Parkopedia and others.
The first adopters of feeding real-time parking data into the smart phones apps motorists are already using have been university campuses, such as Texas A&M, Clemson University, Montclair State University, Eastern Tennessee State University and George Mason University.
Though the ITS market grew while automating public highways and city streets, parking in urban areas is mostly either owned by a municipality or privately held and managed by parking operators. The challenge here lies in how to deliver this individual parking facility data to the masses.
In the future, nirvana state exists where all parking facilities feed their availability into the cloud for motorist consumption once this privately-owned data has been transitioned into the public domain.
A chief question often mentioned in this debate asks that if owners/operators pay to generate the data, how will they obtain a return on investment (ROI) when sharing this data? Vendors within the parking industry continue to work on solutions in order to drive the ROI that will ultimately accelerate this dissemination of data. Examples of implemented solutions include:
• Smart phone-based reservation systems
• Online discount pricing for underutilized parking facilities
• Vehicle count systems to support reservations, audit events and enable efficient enforcement
Regardless of the path or solution that leads to full data access, the well-supported, established and funded intelligent transportation systems industry has a platform ready to be leveraged.
The article was published in the December 2014 issue of Parking Today.