New Technologies Can Save Time, Decrease Congestion and Improve Road Use
Searching for a parking spot is a challenging and often painful prospect for any driver, and it is having a major impact on traffic congestion. In cities of all sizes, drivers are increasingly competing with e-commerce delivery vehicles, meal deliveries and ride shares for parking spaces. It also leads to cities suffering from increased congestion and emissions.
According to a study by INRIX of nearly 6,000 drivers in 10 U.S. cities, many Americans overpay for parking because they fail to estimate how long they need to park. Americans spend an average of 17 hours per year searching for parking, resulting in a cost of $345 per driver in wasted time, fuel and emissions.
This is even having an impact on the local economy as brick-and-mortar retailers can experience reduced sales when potential customers opt to stay home or order products online instead of facing parking challenges. According to INRIX, 40 percent of motorists say they have avoided driving due to parking challenges.
In fact, the Journal of Transport Economics and Policy has stated that cruising for parking causes 15 percent of traffic slowing and bottlenecks. The statistic is best illustrated when observing traffic patterns around street parking: cars slow down to carefully search for available parking spaces, slowing speeds for everyone and reducing the number of lanes available for the flow of traffic.
Fortunately, there are many solutions currently available now, and on the horizon, to manage the complex congestion and parking issues confronting the smart city of tomorrow. These will be easy to deploy, leverage existing technology and enable cities and municipalities to optimize their existing infrastructure.
Reducing Congestion in Smart Cities
Here are three key technological developments that show potential for reducing congestion in cities, provide more flexibility for drivers and help address curbside challenges.
1- Curbside Management: Curbside management solutions help cities manage the precious, valuable, and often chaotic real estate of sidewalk curbs. These prime spots in front of businesses are often used for parking, short-term pick-up or drop-off, and loading and unloading. And the increasing use of ridesharing will make the need to find a scalable solution more urgent. By combining existing parking management systems with the two technologies described below, cites can understand real-time parking needs and shortages, develop rules and pricing models to optimize the use of curbs, and ultimately, reduce congestion for everyone.
2- Dynamic Parking Rules & Pricing: Effective curbside solutions will require dynamic parking rules and variable rates. Similar to congestion pricing, variable rate pricing systems that vary based on demand, real-time usage statistics, and time-of-day can discourage motorists from entering into already crowded areas. Variable rates can encourage drivers to shift travel to other transportation modes, or to off-peak periods. There are a number of use cases to examine today. For example, London, Stockholm and Singapore have all successfully implemented congestion pricing programs. By removing a fraction of the vehicles from a congested roadway or city center, dynamic pricing enables the entire system to flow much more efficiently.
3- Automated Enforcement Solutions: A comprehensive and automated curbside management program, supported by a dynamic pricing and rules engine, has the potential to create a compelling solution, but only if it is combined with an enforcement program that ensures everyone is following the rules. Automated enforcement programs are proven to be effective at addressing dangerous traffic violations, such as red-light running and excessive speeding. These camera-based solutions have shown they can improve driver behaviors and reduce repeat offenders. In addition to red-light and speed zones, there are new use cases such as addressing drivers violating dedicated bus lanes or blocking crosswalks at busy intersections. This same traffic safety technology can be expanded further to the enforce the curb rules by identifying, capturing, and recording loitering vehicles, or vehicles parked illegally. With automated enforcement systems working alongside curbside solutions, congestion issues and parking bottlenecks will quickly become a thing of the past.
One exciting element of all these solutions is that none of them require an entirely new infrastructure like building new roads or adding more parking spaces. Technology investments in software and modest hardware—such as cameras—can help cities and municipalities manage their compounding parking and road congestion problems more efficiently.
At Verra Mobility, we believe these solutions are poised to help optimize the dynamic and increasingly complex parking ecosystem. This is why we recently made a significant investment in the parking sector by acquiring T2 Systems, a leading provider of parking solutions.
Designing the city of the future will always be a work-in-progress, but as long as transportation designers and city leaders work together collaboratively while seeking feedback from road users and the public, the vision of an intelligent, less-congested and safer, smarter city of tomorrow will be here before we know it.
David Roberts, President & CEO at Verra Mobility He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org