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The Internet of Things and the Future of Parking


YOU MAY NOT HAVE HEARD OF THE INTERNET OF THINGS (IOT), or perhaps you’ve heard of The Internet of things Articleit but aren’t really sure what it is. If you aren’t familiar with the IoT, it’s time to acquaint yourself with the topic because chances are it’s already affecting your day-to-day life.

The IoT is the system of internet connectivity through which technologies and the devices we use in our everyday lives are connected online so they can interact with each other and be controlled remotely. So, if you use a smart thermostat or web-enabled security systems or remotely controllable doors (just to name a few common devices), you are already using the IoT. Go ahead, pat yourself on the back because you are officially an IoT trendsetter.

The IoT is already transforming our person­al lives, and that lifestyle trend is accelerating dramatically. It won’t be long before we are all constantly in contact with our homes, vehicles, and other elements of our lives (sadly, this in­cludes the office).

Taking Control of Mobility

The IoT is having just as significant an effect on the parking industry. Many of the most im­portant technologies that have been introduced in recent years offer internet connectivity. As a result, they allow parkers, and parking owners and operators as well, to instantly access parking resources from any computer or smartphone.

“Online connectivity has become very important in recent years,” says Dan Kupferman, CAPP, director of car park management systems for Walker Consultants. “Many new connected technologies have been intro­duced to make the parking experience much more con­venient for drivers and more manageable for owners and operators.”

The most recognizable IoT-enabled parking tech­nology is the mobile payment app. During the past decade, a number of apps have been introduced that permit drivers to pay for parking on their smartphones from the convenience of their vehicles.

“Look at how technology impacts your day-to-day life,” says Roamy Valera, CAPP, CEO, Canada and U.S. for PayByPhone. “We already manage so many aspects of our day-to-day lives with our smartphones, iPads, and laptops. When it comes to mobility, parking pro­vides the introduction to the IoT.

“The IoT and mobility start with you and your phone,” continues Valera. “Think about how much better the parking expe­rience is when we apply these concepts to parking. Drivers can pay with their phones, keep track of how much time is left on the parking session, and add more time remotely. When you can manage your park­ing session with your personal phone you can take con­trol over your journey.”

The IoT’s impact on parking can even begin before the driver leaves the house. Parking pre-booking plat­forms allow drivers to reserve a space before they set out on the journey. Rather than having to search for a space when they arrive at their destination, drivers can just go online, input a payment credential, and reserve a space. Some parking facilities even let you reserve specific spaces online.

“For many people, parking can be a stressful expe­rience,” says Theresa Hughes, CEO of Chauntry, Ltd. “That stress can be significantly reduced by providing access to a parking space before the driver even leaves home. Garages offering pre-booking technology essen­tially allow patrons to connect with them from home, ensuring they’ll have a place to park when they arrive. Pre-booking platforms also allow them to enter their payment credentials in advance, which means they don’t have to fumble for a credit card or cash when it’s time to leave.”

When you can reserve parking and manage your parking session in advance, you have another way to take control of your mobility.

Kupferman agrees that pre-booking is a vital ele­ment of IoT-driven parking: “Owners are starting to sell parking like entertainment venues sell tickets. That trend will only grow in the coming years.”

IoT Benefits Owners and Operators Too

As many industries have already discovered, the IoT can offer extraordinary benefits to companies as well. That includes parking owners and operators. Connec­tivity provides tremendous management advantages that benefit owners and operators, as well as patrons.

“When parking equipment is always connected it’s possible to complete management tasks from any­where, anytime,” says Waldemar Batistella, national prod­uct portfolio manager, SKI­DATA. “For instance, owners and operators can manage their contract parkers online from anywhere. They can also view detailed data on their operation, as well as the status of equipment. Some owners even use connected technol­ogy to remotely manage their garages. Today, owners and operators don’t need to have a physical presence with­in the parking facility to keep it operating smoothly.”

Selim Esen, CEO and chief technology officer of AVPM, says the remote monitoring benefits of the IoT are significant. “The IoT allows owners to constantly monitor the performance of their equipment,” he says. “PARCS and other types of parking equipment often include monitoring software that allows clients to con­trol their parking assets wherever they are, from nearly anywhere. They can manage their machines, processes, and systems to control costs and help increase safety and improve customer satisfaction.”

According to Esen, by monitoring performance in real time, not only can owners and operators identify problems when they happen, but they can also often anticipate issues before they occur. That’s because sys­tem breakdowns will often be proceeded by impaired performance; when that happens, remote fixes can often be implemented.

Gorm Tuxen, president of parking software provid­er IPsens, agrees. And he says that when equipment doesn’t come with its own monitoring software, inde­pendent monitoring technology can handle the task.

“Independent maintenance software allows streamlining of the preventive system maintenance procedures, allowing problems to be fixed remotely in many cases before dispatching expensive field ser­vice personnel,” Tuxen says. “It also provides an on­going history of the performance of the hardware over time. It’s sort of like having an independent monitor on hand to make sure everything is working properly.”

Parking guidance is also an important part of the IoT. Sensors play a leading role in IoT connectivity in other industries and it stands to reason that they would play just as vital a role for the parking industry.

“Parking guidance technology provides constant two-way communication,” says Jake Bezzant, CEO of Parking Sense. “The sensors tell drivers where they can find available parking and at the same time, com­municate with owners and operators, telling them which spots are full and when, and providing data about how long parkers occupy their spaces and which spaces are most popular within a structure.”

The benefits of this two-way communication are obvious. Drivers benefit by gaining convenient access to available parking while owners collect real-time data they can use to better manage their parking facili­ties and make informed planning decisions.

Connected parking technology is even making its way to America’s highways. Departments of transpor­tation (DOT) in Florida and across the Midwest re­cently implemented systems combining parking guid­ance sensors and specialized software to help fatigued truck drivers find the closest available truck stop or rest area parking space.

The programs, which are managed separately by each state’s DOT, use parking sensors installed in truck stop and rest area parking spaces to monitor individual space availability and communicate that information to truck drivers via roadside signage and a specialized smartphone app. The systems are man­aged by a custom-made open source software platform with an application programming interface (API) that connects the system with the apps drivers use to find available parking, allowing drivers to connect with the system no matter where they are. The API can integrate to any network within a state’s system and is able to provide real-time data about where parking is available for tired drivers. All drivers have to do is open the app on their phones and the technology does the rest.

“These programs are already saving lives, and they will become standard equipment on America’s high­ways over the next 10 years,” Tuxen says. “The tech­nology allows truck drivers to constantly be connected with servers that can guide them to a safe resting place. Ultimately, as smart cities mature, the same technol­ogy will be in our cars and will direct us to the closest available parking space to our downtown destinations.”

Looking to the Future

As important as the IoT already is to our daily lives, it’s still in its infancy. As new parking technologies contin­ue to be introduced and added to the grid of connected technologies, garages and vehicles will become more dependent upon them.

“Some of the advances we’ll come to rely on in the future are already in place,” Bezzant says. “For in­stance, many parking guidance sensors have Bluetooth chips to facilitate payment. In the future, this same Bluetooth technology will be able to manage reserved parking areas for autonomous vehicles, guide the vehi­cles to open spaces, and manage the transaction.”

According to Kupferman, when it comes to the IoT, the future is limited only by the limits of our imaginations.

“Connectivity offers so much promise for the future of parking, mobility, and transportation,” Kupferman says. “When all these connected technologies are tied together, we can build parking transportation suites that ensure a seamless parking experience while con­stantly collecting incredible amounts of data that can be used to manage parking facilities better.

“And more amazing breakthroughs are right around the corner,” he continues. “For instance, roadways can now be built with materials that include sensors and computer chips that can collect immense amounts of data about vehicle and pedestrian patterns. There’s even a connected glass road covering that, in addition to recording data, can permit lanes to be realigned in response to utilization patterns identified by its sen­sors. When it comes to IoT and mobility, the future really is unlimited.”

Read the article here.

BILL SMITH, APR, is principal of Smith-Phillips Strategic Communications and contributing editor of Parking & Mobility. He can be reached at bsmith@smith-phillips.com or 603.491.4280.

Thoughtful Management: A county’s division of parking management shines in the close-in suburbs of Washington, D.C.

By Sindhu Rao

IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD., the Department of Transportation’s (MCDOT) Division of Parking Management has served the parking lot districts (PLDs) of the Washington, D.C. suburbs of Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Wheaton for more than 60 years with thoughtful parking management techniques.

Charged with addressing on- and off-street parking needs while supporting economic and transportation-­related initiatives, the PLDs con­tinually implement new parking management and operations solutions to enhance the competitiveness of these traditional and urban environments. The PLDs receive no direct government subsidies and are responsible for generating sufficient revenue to cover capital, operational, and debt service costs. Additionally, a certain amount of PLD funds are transferred to the county for the promotion of tran­sit benefits, streetscape and lighting improvements, and other public amenities.

Organizational Structure

MCDOT’s Division of Parking Management is respon­sible for the administration of the county’s three PLDs. The division’s mission is to promote economic growth by offering sufficient parking, encouraging efficient transportation mode choice through a careful balance of parking rates and supply, and developing parking management strategies to maximize the usage of avail­able parking.

The PLDs are a single administrative entity, giving it full control over on- and off-street parking manage­ment, regulatory and compliance coordination, and customer service. As an enterprise fund, the PLDs must generate enough revenue on an ongoing basis to not only be self-sufficient, but also to transfer millions of dollars to transit funds, urban districts, and the county’s general reserve every year.

The division governance structure is organized into four sectional units: administrative management, financial management, engineering and capital project management, and parking operations. Their roles are divvied up in the following ways:

  • The administrative management section manages the planning, information technology, and customer and administration services staff to optimize organi­zational effectiveness. The section plans for the stra­tegic redevelopment of PLD real property. The plan­ning team leads the division’s innovation initiatives and plans for growth in the PLDs through short-term demand studies and long-term strategic plans.
  • The financial management section has overall responsibility for recording and reconciling all revenue, the management of the encumbrance and invoice payment process, the revenue bond debt, and budget. In 2018, the section was responsible for man­aging program-wide revenue of nearly $38 million.
  • The engineering and capital project management sec­tion provides engineering and project management for the design and construction of new parking facilities. The program ensures the preservation and structural integrity of existing parking facilities. It also provides services such as snow and ice removal; housekeeping services; equipment maintenance for elevators, elec­trical, and HVAC systems; and groundskeeping care.
  • The parking operations section is responsible for collecting and processing parking revenue from the many methods of payment offered by the division. It is also responsible for managing the parking citation database, providing onsite security, and overseeing the appeal process for parking tickets.

Biennial Customer Service Survey

As bounded by Montgomery County government bylaws, the Division of Parking Management is required to conduct a park­ing customer service survey every two years to gauge custom­ers’ perception of the public parking system’s performance. The division hires a consultant to administer the survey, ensuring it is completed in an independent manner. The survey targets two subgroups—permit holders and visitors—and offers those customers an opportunity to provide feedback on a wide range of parking issues. The survey results are used by MCDOT staff to measure the division’s performance. In the most recent sur­vey, visitors and permit holders gave their highest marks to the conditions of facilities, safety and security, and convenience to destination. Overall satisfaction with the PLD’s facilities was high, with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5.

Recent Accomplishments and Initiatives

The county recently became one of the first jurisdictions in the U.S. to partner with two mobile payment vendors. The two-vendor mobile payment system was phased in during six months and is now available at more than 10,000 meters throughout the county. By offering two choices, MCDOT is providing greater flexibility and convenience for parkers.

Another technology adopted by the division is a digital parking guidance system, which offers ­real-time message signs outside and inside garages to direct people to available parking. This information is published to websites and mobile applica­tions as well. The division’s electric vehicle (EV) infrastruc­ture overview plan addresses the need and pathway for install­ing electric-vehicle charging stations in PLD facilities. To date, 16 charging stations that can serve 32 vehicles system-wide are operational with plans to install additional stations.

Another positive change the division made in its parking operations is an upgraded lighting system in each of the di­vision’s 20 garages. The new high-output lamps are not only brighter but have saved the division around 20 percent in ­energy-related expenditures per facility.

Finally, with its partnership with Zipcar, the division has been a leader in promoting the usage of car-share. The division has more than 30 car-share spaces in a mixture of lots, garag­es, and on-street. To promote the visibility of car-share and encourage MCDOT’s alternative transportation objectives, the division has located the on-street car-share spaces near vibrant retail centers.

Additional initiatives implemented recently include a new residential permit program using mobile license plate rec­ognition (LPR) enforcement, modernization of four parking facilities from single-space parking meters to master meters, a variable parking policy program, a dynamic parking map embedded on the county’s website, the county’s first “cy­cle-track” bike lane, and revamping the Ad Valorem tax pro­gram that helps fund the PLDs.

To support the general tax base and improve pedestrian experience, the division has repositioned land by developing three surface lots into mixed-use centers. As part of a pub­lic-private partnership, the division transformed an existing 200-space parking lot in downtown Bethesda into a 950-space subterranean parking garage with first-floor retail and a multi-story residential building above. The publicly owned and operated garage was needed to release pressure off a nearby garage that frequently operated at capacity during peak hours. The project included wider sidewalk space, a pedestrian cut-through connection to an adjacent trail, a public plaza, restau­rants, and the addition of hundreds of residents within a short walk of a transit station.

Two other public-private partnerships are currently un­derway. In Wheaton, the division is redeveloping a 160-space parking lot; by 2020, it will have been converted into a 400-space underground garage with first floor retail, a town square, and a 310,000-square-foot office building above. And in Silver Spring, construction recently wrapped up on a 162-space underground public parking garage with a residential tower above and associated plaza on what was formerly the site of a county parking lot. Beyond these projects, the division is in var­ious planning stages for the future redevelopment of additional PLD lots and garages.

Dual Vendor Mobile Payment System

Mobile payment technology is a win-win. For customers, it is a convenient cashless solution. For parking management agencies, it requires little financial investment or continual operating costs. As the second largest jurisdiction in the Washington met­ropolitan area, Montgomery County has a significant demand for parking from employees, residents, and visitors in its urban areas. In 2010, the division introduced a mobile payment solution to its payment ecosystem. The division partnered with MobileNOW, and success followed immediately with high adoption rates. To­day, the program processes more than 150,000 parking sessions monthly and has generated over $30 million in revenue since its inception.

To build on this success, the county explored solutions to fur­ther increase mobile payment use for several reasons. First, mo­bile payment systems have minimal infrastructure requirements and limited ongoing operational costs and lack credit card pro­cessing fees. Benefits flow to customers too, including the ability to conveniently pay for parking, receive a text message when parking time is close to expiring, extend the parking session remotely, pay for only time parked, and track personal parking activity.

Second, the county serves a cross-jurisdictional consumer base. A substantial portion of MCDOT’s parking facility users come from outside the county. Consequently, these parkers are accustomed to using the mobile payment provider offered in their hometown, which may differ from Montgomery County’s. Wanting to avoid balancing multiple payment accounts, there’s a segment of the customer base that’s disinclined to register with the county’s vendor’s app. Therefore, to mitigate the downside of parkers eschewing mobile payment due to unfamiliarity with the county’s vendor, improving mobile payment access became a division priority.

Ultimately, the county decided to become one of the country’s first jurisdictions to provide customers with a choice of mobile payment vendors. The county wanted to capitalize on the op­portunity to nudge customers in the mobile payment direction. The county issued a request for proposals in early 2017, and following the bidding process partnered with its existing vendor, MobileNOW, and a new vendor with a well-estab­lished presence in the Washington, D.C.-area market, ParkMobile.

Prior to the rollout, a few issues needed resolution. For example, the county needed to get both vendors on board with a sign package. To keep sign clutter to a minimum, it was apparent that both vendors’ branding would have to be integrated into the same signs. The county spearheaded the design process, contracted with a local graphic designer, and developed instruc­tional signage to be installed in visibly prominent loca­tions within garages. Both vendors provided feedback during the design process and approved final drawings. The result was a cohesive sign package that reduced visual clutter in parking facilities.

Another issue impeding a smooth deployment was enforcement complications. The county was challenged with integrating both vendors’ parking en­forcement technology into a single software platform. MCDOT collaborated with the vendors’ IT teams for workable solutions, and the county’s enforcement of­ficers are now able to view transaction data from each vendor on their handheld devices in real time.

Decals on meters inform customers of the mobile payment option. However, relinquishing space on me­ter heads exclusively to vendor decals could have nega­tive future consequences if either vendor folded or did not meet contractual obligations. To work around this potential problem, the county configured a consistent meter layout with four distinct decals:

  • MobileNOW’s decal displaying a QR code and space number.
  • ParkMobile’s decal displaying a QR code and space number.
  • A Montgomery County decal displaying the space number.
  • A Montgomery County decal displaying a URL address directing patrons to the county’s website with mobile payment instructions.

This approach eases the transition if the partner­ship with one of the vendors were to end. That com­pany’s decal could be removed or replaced without disrupting the mobile payment program.

By late 2017, the county began an incremental launch. A phased approach was adopted as staff was tasked with installing the four decals on more than 10,000 meters throughout the PLDs. By mid-2018 the launch was complete with 10 garages, 20 lots, and more than 2,300 on-street meters in the PLDs outfitted with dual vendor mobile payment capability. The county plans to expand the program to additional facilities, including pay-by-space environments.

Program Outcomes

Due to the widespread diffusion of mobile technol­ogy, consumers have come to expect convenience in many aspects of their lives. While the county has modernized the payment systems in several facilities, budgetary realities have prevented the county from modernizing the entire parking system. This has given rise to frustrated customers. Paying for parking with coins is a common pain point. Indeed, the dual vendor mobile payment system has provided MCDOT and its customers with tangible benefits and improved expe­rience. For MCDOT, the system has proven powerful because it does not require new equipment or main­tenance costs. For customers, it has aligned with the convenience that technology has brought elsewhere in their lives.

The county has access to a comprehensive web-based collection of reports from both vendors, enabling analyses of mobile payment activities. To benchmark success of the program, the county tracked mobile pay­ment sessions and revenue per facility in the months leading up to the dual-vendor implementation and tracked sessions and revenue post-implementation. Since implementation of the dual vendor system, year-over-year total parking sessions increased over 20 per­cent and revenue by $1.3 million.

MCDOT plans to expand the dual vendor mobile payment system to additional parking facilities. The system is currently only available in facilities operated by single-space meters and pay-and-display environ­ments. The county anticipates rolling out the dual ven­dor system in its pay-by-space garages and lots soon. With this impending expansion, MCDOT will reap further benefits, and greater convenience will flow to additional county parkers.

Read the article here.

SINDHU RAO is IT specialist III in the Division of Parking Management of the Montgomery Department of Transportation. She can be reached at sindhu.rao@montgomerycountymd.gov.