Magazine

A Bigger, Smarter, Simpler and Cheaper ‘Affordable Parking Act’ for the Industry?

By Amalendu Chatterjee

“Arbitrary rate increases and high fines for balancing other budgets may not be an option for parking operators,” PT Editor John Van Horn says. Whereas, options of lowering rates, dynamic and mobile services for new revenue, and new customer experiences are wide open when considering a “web parking portal.”

I hereby propose a bigger, smarter and cheaper “Affordable Parking Act” (APA) for the future parking industry. The new paradigm would replace existing but sophisticated and expensive hardware with a Robust Web Parking Portal (RWPP). The APA would follow proven industry models for its success.

Airline industries, for example, have perfected giving more responsibilities to their customers, who can make their own airline reservations and print boarding passes. Telecom industries have lowered costs for long-distance phone, video and data services (e.g., Skype or Vonage calls).

I say it’s high time for the parking industry to explore similar “disruptive technologies” – an online and real-time operation with reduced hardware to lower costs. Why the RWPP business model?

Today’s parking industry business model (three spaces per car nationwide) does not have the sustainable capability for Generation Y (aka the Millennials). Technological innovations will dictate the future industry to be on par with other customer-friendly utility services. Rationales for a new parking paradigm include:

• Parking spaces are national resources and must be shared optimally.

• Meters and PARC systems not only are old, but also not amenable for smooth transformation to Internet operations.

• One-click solutions for parking reservations as with airline, hotel and car-rental businesses.

• Public smartphone or Wi-Fi infrastructure to lower costs of payment, collections, enforcement and mobility

for parking.

• IT infrastructure with “open source” products and tools will

lower costs.

• Cellphone use for parking and transportation services as with toll, bus and commuter train (intelligent transportations services).

• Location services for parking spaces.

• Convergence of one solution for all parking spaces – private and public, meter and garage – to “Go Green.”



RWPP Premise

The Robust Web Parking Portal will transform the industry business model to an Internet model for real-time and online operation with minimum hardware. The driving forces behind such a transformation are lower costs, little or no yearly maintenance, little field installation and no spare parts, converting spaces for revenue instantly, and customized reports.

The RWPP can enable comprehensive, consolidated and integrated technologies to accommodate a new parking paradigm of electrical vehicles, charging stations, driverless software technology, and the new challenge of transportation planning. The parking industry could partner with big technology companies to make its operations more efficient and cost-effective.

How do you initiate the RWPP? “Rebooting” the parking industry from the ground up? Why not? Rebooting helped many industries, and it may be true for the parking industry as well. Who imagined free telephone calls via Skype or loading your airline boarding pass into your cellphone? Can you see what I am talking about?



RWPP

Software Platform

A nationwide, consolidated, comprehensive and integrated solution is what’s needed to transform the parking industry. If executed properly, the RWPP would be like Google, Amazon or eBay, with combinations of sophisticated software and databases. It would do all functions of today’s parking with an eye to future for complete automation and efficiency.

Key characteristics include:

• Defining parking functions in terms of software modules, with application program interfaces (APIs) for parking modules required now or later.

• Replacing hardware devices gradually with software modules (plug-and-play) for specific vendor hardware independent solutions.

• User-friendly interface for customer interaction such as setting an account or making reservation or payments, or other transactions.

• Integrating required transportation functions (such as toll services, gas stations and EV charging stations) as part of parking solution.

• A regulatory software module overseeing all activities of other software modules for conformance and compliance.

• Synchronization of databases of parking configurations (on- and off-street, private and public), customers, vehicles, payments, enforcement and appeals.

• Online real-time availability and occupancy database of all parking spaces (on- and off-street, private and public) for sharing nationwide.

• Tracking stolen vehicles with the help of a nationwide database.

• Interconnecting with “smart city,” pushed by IBM and Cisco, for real-time and online enforcement, citation and appeals resolution.

• Mobility of parking services with help of iPhone, barcode and RFID.

• Compatible with third party application for finding parking, making reservation, pre-payment and training.

• Tracking of all activities and logging of all events with time stamps.

• Customized auto report generation using “open source” products and tools.



RWPP New Service and Revenue Paradigm

This would include:

• Offering premium space at a price.

• Online permits with pre-payments.

• Automatic step-up rates for expired time.

• Online business processes, interface to DMV, online appeals.

• Space independent parking and self-printed parking passes.

• Reserved and guaranteed parking with cellphone apps.

• Integration of barcode parking and boarding pass for security check.

• Enhancing security around parking areas (pre-verification of parkers).

• Car maintenance services



On-Street Parking Transformation:

The RWPP-based Affordable Parking Act could transform on-street parking functions into software paradigm, such as:

• “Soft” meters (see Sidebar) with space markers to eliminate hardware for all 8 million meters, yearly maintenance costs and cash collections.

• Unpaid ticket fees and fines to be replaced with either pre-paid collections or post-paid accounts debit.

• Higher rates for overstay will automatically be charged to the account.

• Streamlined transportation services and parking services such as collection of driver’s license fees, toll services, bus/commuter train tickets and vehicle registrations.

• No revenue loss of meter malfunctioning and no driver frustration



On-Street Parking Cost Comparison:

A cost comparison between the RWPP’s soft meter and the hard meter is warranted. More savings are possible if “open source” products and tools are used while architecting RWPP. A rough estimate of $500,000 would cover the initial 10,000 marked spaces software. Once developed, spaces could be added free of costs. All changes are made from a central location with no field work.

(Charts showing cost comparisons can be found online at www.parkingtoday.com and click on the article title.)



Off-Street Parking Transformation:

The RWPP-based Affordable Parking Act could also transform off-street parking functions into software paradigms, such as:

• Uniformity and standards with no gate for all garage/lot spaces.

• Integration of on-street, off-street parking and transportation services (bus/commuter ticket and toll) in the same application.

• Easing alternate side of the street parking rules to promote garage parking and improving transportation services.

• No waste of time or increasing traffic congestion and air pollution.

• Speeding up search time for parking to convert to revenue generating opportunity with new customized services.

• Single collection and payment option with no attendant and self payment machines.

• Consolidating private and public garage ownership for resource sharing and environmental protection.

• Optimum use of existing parking facilities (totaling 200 million at any time) without new construction costing $15,000 to $20,000 per space

Off-Street Parking Cost Comparison:

The off-street parking configuration is not as straightforward as the street meter. One in-between simplification step with RFID tags will be introduced to compare cost. Proper signage would be posted and spaces marked for real-time operations and online enforcement. Equipment costs that include installation, maintenance and integration for gated solution would be normalized.

Assumptions include: one entry gate per 1,000 spaces; 1.75 exit gates per 1,000 spaces; RFID tag cost as per market data; the RWPP component cost is the same as the on-street scenario.

The savings per space would be close to $222 for the RWPP. The savings with the simplified RFID tag instead would be close to $131 per space. These savings would go up if more spaces are added, because same software can handle unlimited number of spaces.



Conclusion:

Hopefully, the RWPP frameworks would last for the next century, as meter and PARCS technologies lasted for the last 75 years or more. The proposed paradigm would eliminate stress for parking search and payments, while reducing traffic congestion and CO2 pollution. The parking industry could be in the forefront of mainstream technology with reduced daily challenges and the setting new standards and uniformity nationwide.



Amalendu Chatterjee, VP-Technology for the technology services company EximSoft International, can be

reached through its website (www.eximsoftint.com).



Amalendu Chatterjee answers some PT questions:

JVH: Your proposal means that all parking would be nationalized, right?

AC: It is not nationalization in the sense of ownership; rather, it is centrally coordinated in a database for efficient operation. Individual ownership is not changed. Data for each owner are strictly partitioned to conform to its own rates, fees and other business regulations.

In principle, you can compare it with cellphone operation. Many companies operate with their own rules, but every customer can make a connection to talk to the other using common resources of the network. Revenues for long-distance calls among these companies are shared based on some agreed upon guidelines.

Here I am proposing that in the national parking network, each driver would be automatically identified as they roam, or each driver can identify themselves while they wish to park – that is the wonder of the current technology.

The parking industry should take advantage of it and the Web Parking Portal (WPP).

JVH: What is a “soft” meter?

AC: A “soft” meter is the software module in the WPP that would do the metering functions (without the meter in the field), such as recognizing the space parked, accepting parking duration and the total charges.

Drivers would register for an account in the software as customers do for any other utility services, such as water, electricity, telephone, using their address, phone number, etc. Here, drivers also would need to use their mobile phone number or car registration for unique identification.

All parking spaces nationally would be uniquely marked with its city, owner, street, street block, floor (if garage) and space number in the database. Drivers, when parked in any of those spaces, would be either automatically recognized in the database by his vehicle or cellphone GPS or sensing device (RFID tag) or AVI or the driver would identify themselves by giving their cellphone or vehicle registration.

Once this recognition and identification are complete, the software module would start charging the account, with time stamp. In software terms, it’s called activation. Once the driver leaves the space, the reverse process (deactivation) would be initiated.

Article Abstract from January, 2014




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