Smart Parking, Raising Rates, Breaking the Law


Smart Parking, Raising Rates, Breaking the Law

An article from ITS International, posted on Parknews, attempts to define smart parking and I think comes up short. To wit: Smart parking should:

• identify or forecast open parking spaces and relay that information to drivers

• support multiple payment options – whether by meter, kiosk or smart phone

• support enforcement efforts – either by informing agents of expired meters or by embedding automatic enforcement

• feed valuable data to the city’s transportation agency to inform greater transportation policies and programs such as traffic management and variable pricing initiatives

Note that this definition includes technology which deals with determining whether or not an on-street space is occupied and feeds that data somewhere, either to a potential parker or the city. Fair enough. Read the entire article by checking out

But, is that all parking does when it is “Smart?” I think not.

First of all, there is more to parking that just on-street detection. There is off-street parking, for instance, which parks many more cars than those on street. There are park and rides that feed riders to rapid transit and light rail. There is valet, on and off airport parking, and of course the myriad issues involved in parking at universities, hotels, hospitals, and shopping centers.

In this issue of PT, we have an article that talks of frictionless parking, that uses technology to enable parkers to choose many different ways to park. They can pull tickets, sign up for license plate recognition and pay on line, use valet services, and even reserve parking. All these are available so the parker can decide what best fits her needs.

Someone at PIE last month quoted the late great Tip O’Neill, Boston politico, that “all Politics is local.” The slight change from Tip’s version was that “All parking is local.”

Smart Parking must fit the needs of the local community. The needs of a shopping center are different from that of a hotel, or a municipality, or an airport. The needs of Park City are different than the needs of Los Angeles. You get the idea.

For parking to be “smart” managers must first determine the needs of the sector it is serving, and then select the technology needed to meet those needs. My friend Julie Dixon, one of the two quoted in the article, summed it up nicely:

“Smart parking is not just something you can plug in. It can be expensive to deploy and to maintain. You need to determine exactly what you want to get out of the program.”

Yep –

Charleston, SC, is raising meter prices to equal garage prices. The local hospitality workers are enraged because this is dipping into their pocketbooks in a big way. Seems they park on street because it costs less. Oh, and the city is also extending enforcement until later in the evening, meaning additional costs for workers.

Hold the phone! Why would it cost less to park on street, a few steps from your destination, than to park in a structure a block or two away? Wouldn’t the more convenient space cost more? It seems the pricing was upside down to begin with. Of course, that’s the way it is in many cities. Buck an hour on street, $5 an hour in the structure.

The cooks, waiters, and baristas who park in those on-street spots to save money are also missing something. They are taking their customers’ spaces. I understand the need to save money, particularly when you are on a budget, but to do so by making it more difficult for your boss to cover your paycheck? I don’t think so.

The article posted on had some ideas – shuttles from lots on the periphery of the city, permits to reduce parking rates in structures for local employees, building rapid transit (a brilliant short term solution) – and the city council is mulling. But the key is this graph:

City Council didn’t vote on the issue because it already approved the parking meter changes late last year during the 2018 budget process. The decision was part of the plan to avoid raising homeowners’ property taxes to cover extra expenses this year, including a cost-of-living raise for city employees.

Did you note the words “budget” and “cover extra expenses” in the story? Yep – parking fees were being raised to cover costs unrelated to parking. It was also buried in the budget passed last year. Oh, Please.

Now, after the raise is said and done, it comes to light. To quote a late-night host talking to a movie star caught with a prostitute “What were you thinking?” No wonder the local citizens are reaching for the torches and pitchforks.

Come on, Charleston. Parking is one of the most emotive subjects you address. You can do better than this.Ā 

I have been musing lately about breaking the law. Is it ever necessary? Should we ever do it?

Take driving. How often do we intentionally break the law while we drive in our daily lives? It may have to do with speed, or crossing double lines, passing on the right, or any number of other minor infractions.Ā 

Many who are thinking about autonomous vehicles are discussing how they will save many lives because they will stay within the traffic laws and be able to react more quickly than humans to different traffic situations. Fair enough.

Now I read that many of the features in autonomous vehicles can be placed today in the cars that require human drivers. Only about 40 percent of the cars on earth have anti-lock brakes. What about autonomous breaking control and speed controls

Let’s take speed controls. The idea is that maps and controls can be downloaded so that you cannot go faster than the speed limit set by the government on any road or highway. In fact, the controls listed above are being mandated in cars sold in Europe beginning this year.

What if the speed limit is 60 mph and I want to pass a semi going 55. How long will it take to pass if I am limited to 60? What if I need to get to the hospital with a sick child? What if I’m being chased by robbers? All these seem to be legitimate reasons to exceed the speed limit.

But if I cannot exceed the limit due to state mandated rules that are built into my car, then what?

It seems to me that we need to think about these issues. Technology is making many things possible. But should they be?

Just sayin…

Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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