This year’s ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 4-7, 2019, featured a lively and well-attended Smart Cities track packed with thought-provoking talks and discussions. On Thursday, the Smart City track hosted a session on Smart Parking Systems. ARC Advisory Group’s transport analyst, Eduard Fidler, was joined by leaders from SP+, CloudParc, and Walker Consultants to discuss trends and trajectories in the space. Speakers shared their perspectives and experiences in the industry and joined a panel discussion, which concluded with audience questions.
Five Things We Learned at the Smart Parking Session
The presenters and subsequent discussion provided some excellent insights into the state of smart parking today and where it is headed. Five key takeaways from the session follow.
Parking Affects More Than We Think
In her talk, CloudParc Chief Commercial Officer, Dana Klein, highlighted the many aspects of a city that parking affects. Available and efficient parking both adds to livability of a place and smooths local commerce. Improved commerce, in turn, leads to a brighter economy and higher tax revenues, adding to the revenues generated by collecting parking fares. When drivers no longer circle around looking for spaces they have a better city experience, are under less stress, and their vehicles don’t contribute as much pollution. All impact local health and well-being. Parking regulation affects real estate developers, and housing prices/availability, with multiple related second-order socioeconomic effects. Officials can also use parking as a lever for beneficial policies, such as providing free electric vehicle charging and/or preferred parking for EVs in municipal lots.
Demand Pricing Has a Serious Role to Play
Today, most cities find it almost impossible to match parking supply with demand. Some city blocks are completely full, leading to drivers circling around until they get lucky or lose hope and just leave, while other city blocks sit underutilized.
The ability to sense parking occupancy in near real-time provides operators and city officials with actionable data on their parking assets. They can see exactly what areas consistently experience a supply and demand mismatch, and then vary the parking fees charged accordingly. Drivers are incentivized away from using higher value spaces and toward lower value ones. This is often called “demand pricing,” something all four of our speakers believe will be a key tool for municipal operators going forward.
A few cities in the US have run pilot programs to explore demand pricing of parking. San Francisco’s program proved so successful that the city has recently expanded demand pricing to every single public parking space in the city, both on streets and in municipally owned garages. In evaluating its pilot, the city found that while it did need to raise rates in the busiest neighborhoods, it was able to lower rates in many others. Where demand pricing was implemented, business picked up significantly along with revenues from sales tax. Seemingly, as drivers were able to find spaces easier in a district they visited it more, and in busy places the slightly higher prices increased turnover of cars. Beyond improving both commerce and convenience to drivers, the city measured a drop in emissions and an ease in road congestion.
Demand pricing can be done in real time but doesn’t have to be. Citizens may balk at constant price fluctuation and many cities still require council approval for any price change. San Francisco revisited their pricing on a weekly basis. Cities may also not be able to raise rates as high as needed in the busiest places for similar reasons, but any move toward equilibrium price can still make a difference.
Garages and Multi-modal Transit
Jim Corbett of Walker Consultants discussed the need for new parking structure developments today to be designed with an eye toward changing use patterns. If current trends continue, many parts of the developed world will see rates of private vehicle ownership drop in the coming decades, so a forward-thinking parking structure would need to be convertible to other use-cases, such as office space. This would require, for example, lower ceilings and replacing ramping floors with ramps contained in a separate side structure.
Garages may also evolve into mini transit hubs at the edge of city centers, with the first floor a multi-modal transit area. Drivers may come to the outskirts of a city, store their vehicles in the upper floors of a structure, then catch a last-mile transport solution such as a ride-hailing shuttle from the ground floor. Garages of the future will also need to gear up to store autonomous vehicles as well as a larger share of electric vehicles that will require charging equipment and an ample supply of electricity.
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Keywords: ARC Industry Forum Orlando, Smart Parking, Smart City, SP+, CloudParc, ARC Advisory Group.