The Smart City Future: Why Do Cities Still Have Analog Parking?

December 22, 2021

The journey to smart cities goes way back to the 1970s, when Los Angeles created the first urban big data project: “A Cluster Analysis of Los Angeles”. The first smart city was arguably Amsterdam with the creation of a virtual digital city in 1994. Things then sped up in the mid-2000s when IBM and Cisco launched separate initiatives.

A smart city collects, communicates, and analyses data from a network of sensors, events and information sources to improve citizen experience and operational efficiency.

Parking and mobility data in cities has traditionally been ‘analog’ - physical signs on the street, paper tickets on a windscreen, meters on the sidewalk and tedious manual record keeping of curbside assets. Parking regulations at the curb continue to be dictated by parking signs and curbside markings - a method that hasn’t changed since it was first introduced in New York in the 1920s!

In the meantime, the parking and mobility industry have seen a plethora of new technologies in the context of serving smart city goals and the connected and autonomous vehicle future. The growing demand for sustainability and the need for more flexibility have changed the way we view parking and curbsides today, and the way technology can turn the analog to digital.

The future of parking and mobility not only promises innovations that will ease the ordeal of parking for the user, but also promises a bright future of possibilities to thrive for parking providers. What is to come will be decided by modern technologies that continue to be developed in collaboration with parking administrators with a drive for innovation.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has played a tremendous role in parking and mobility trends. Parking lots have found new uses to support businesses and communities. From farmers markets to drive-in movie theaters and food trucks to outdoor dining, parking lots are helping open opportunities for people to gather safely in the fresh air. Regular cubsides are now used for curbside pick-up and outside dining, while vacant parking lots are used for farmers markets. The pandemic has altered everyone’s lifestyles and parking and mobility will continue to adapt to the new demands of the public.

Digitizing the Curb

‍Developing smarter cities that digitize parking and the curbsides can provide valuable information to help cities become more efficient, accessible, and safe. Cities around the world are using curb data to improve urban planning and reduce traffic congestion. Curb data can be used in a multitude of ways, by helping with traffic congestion in real-time and providing information on parking availability. For businesses, curb data can help regulate parking, increase on-time deliveries and prevent parking fines. As more cities invest in smart city initiatives, they're gaining access to excessive amounts of new data that improves the distribution of shared mobility services in a more focused manner. Curb data can help cities better adapt to temporary changes. This has allowed cities to become safer, smarter, and more productive.  

“Our key focus is to help cities boost operational efficiencies and enhance the quality of life for their citizens. By digitizing current curbside regulation restrictions, we can model future curbside uses and provide data for congestion modeling, economic development, and citizen satisfaction.” said Spot President Elizabeth Zealand.

Curb data keeps constituents informed, helps regulate parking and can empower urban planning. Exposing access to information and integrating it with other urban datasets can expedite delivery services, improve turnover, and generate additional revenue streams as well as making cities safer and more inclusive. Access to curb data enables cities, urban planners and consumers to improve their store deliveries, optimize fleet management and more. Cities benefit more when the people who live there have the power to shape it.

A city driving innovation in this digital curb space is the City of Arvada in Colorado. Spot is currently working with Arvada to create an intelligent connected parking ecosystem.

“The digital twin of the Arvada parking and mobility conditions will provide the basis for improved information to citizens and managers. City Administrators will be able to provide up-to-the-minute parking conditions and guidance, which in turn adapts the behavior of drivers to ensure a streamlined parking experience”, added Zealand.

City of Parramatta Parking Finder

“We envision a city that benefits from better curb information. Our goal is to improve information about curb space: not just when it's available, but also how it is used during the day and how it can be optimized based on demand.”

Parking and Mobility Trends To Watch For

Parking and mobility is a service, and just like many other services it is becoming consumer-oriented and demand focused. Customers want the hassle-free experience of fast and easy parking, despite their location. With technological innovation and a growing number of cars, consumers will be offered new solutions to park in the future.

Additionally, curbs are a major factor of parking and mobility in cities. Traditionally curbs were used for private vehicle parking, but changing times and demand have seen trends such as drop off and pick up and urban freight. Cities can take further steps to optimize their curb management by establishing goals for curb access that match their transport strategy. Once this has been done, a city will need to thoroughly analyze the existing curbside conditions.

The top five trends for curbs and curb markets that we see today are:

  1. People and place
  2. Urban freight
  3. Shared electric and autonomous vehicles
  4. Micromobility
  5. Drop off and pick up.

They all have one thing in common, they are not just about disruption of mobility to drive efficiency, but rather about enabling cities to work better. This is where change begins.

Challenges the parking industry is facing with curbsides include: double parking, unsafe drop-offs, unsafe package/freight deliveries, parking fines, pollution and difficulty with ride-sharing apps.

To combat such challenges, the parking and mobility industry is shifting towards frictionless, contactless, end-to-end solutions where parking spaces can be pre-planned and pre-booked, with driver guidance to the space and paid for digitally. Available as an IoT platform or service, providers offer hardware, cloud computing and connected devices to deliver a seamless parking experience.

Spot is committed to moving the parking and mobility world from analog to digital, and creating new areas of value for curbside assets.

Similar to how grocery stores use their empty shelf space to attract consumers with special offers and new product features, cities can use their empty curb space for mobility solutions. By planning meaningful integrations with the city, mobility service providers and infrastructure owners, sustainable solutions for all parties can be created.

The Future of Smart Cities

Trends seem to come and go, but the main thing that always comes back is innovation. It’s the engine of our industry, constantly redefining and reinventing how we park. Administrators  are embracing an age of advanced data collection and information analysis. Cities are collecting more accurate data and better engaging with companies, residents, and visitors to improve people’s parking and mobility experience. And the move from analog to digital parking and mobility data is enabling faster, smarter and more sustainable outcomes in cities across the world.

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