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‘Smart Parking’ – More Than Just a ‘Smart Car’

By Donald R. Monahan

We assume “smart parking” isn’t the ingenious way that a “smart car” can maneuver into a parking space, such as

seen in the photo nearby. In the industry, “smart parking” usually refers to access tech-

nology that uses a “smart card.” It resembles a credit card in size and shape, but inside is an embedded microprocessor that stores information as to the user’s credentials to allow access to a park- ing facility.

However, smart parking also can apply to a variety of issues

within the provision of parking, including policy, management, operations and design.

Smart Parking Policy Smart parking policy is the practice of minimizing the provi-

sion of excess parking spaces that are often unused, creating opportunities for higher and better use of the additional land that results from that policy. Reduction of parking space needs is accomplished by encouraging alternative transportation modes, developing walkable/bikeable communities, encouraging tran- sit-oriented developments, and encouraging mixed-use develop- ments with shared parking facilities. In dense urban areas, shared parking is a particularly effec-

tive strategy at minimizing parking needs. Non-competing land uses have different parking accumulation characteristics. Office uses typically peak during the day, while cinemas, the-

aters, concert venues, hotels, residential uses and restaurants typ- ically peak at night. Further, patrons may visit multiple business- es on a single trip without moving their vehicle. Office users will walk to, say, a restaurant, post office or dry

cleaner during their lunch break without moving their vehicle. Employees who take public transportation, bike, walk or carpool reduce parking needs. Parking needs also change by day of week and time of year.

Office parking is nearly vacant on weekends. Seasonal tourist activity or retail may affect parking demand as well. These char- acteristics require fewer spaces than if the parking demand for each individual use is added together.


Smart Parking Management Smart parking management often refers to the way technolo-

gy is used to direct people to parking spaces. Parking guidance systems are becoming more popular as a

means of directing parkers to the nearest available space, result- ing in the elimination of excessive searching for a space, a reduc- tion in vehicle emissions, and more efficient utilization of the parking supply. These systems can be implemented for a single multi-level parking structure or on an area-wide basis in an urban area. Such systems use sensors at individual parking spaces, or at

a group of parking spaces, to determine how many spaces are empty in a given area. Changeable message signs are then coordi- nated with the count system to direct parkers to the nearest avail- able space. Parking guidance systems can be implemented in a metro-

politan area on major streets accessing downtown, where a kiosk identifies the public parking facilities with arrows directing patrons to those locations, as well as indicating the parking space availability at each facility. When one arrives at the desired parking facility, kiosks also

are located at the entrances to indicate the available spaces on each floor of the parking facility. As one arrives at the desired floor, sensors in each space activate a red light over the space if occupied or a green light if the space is empty. The patron can then readily determine where to find the closest available space.

Smart Parking Operations Smart parking operations use technology to expedite fee

payment in the most convenient and secure process – multi- space and single-space meters that can accept multiple forms of payment, including coins, credit cards and smart cards. The meters also can be connected wirelessly to a central computer system, which logs all activity and provides an audit trail for all revenue collected. Fraud and theft are greatly minimized or eliminated with this technology, compared with the old manual collection of Continued on Page 30

Parking Today

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