Smart Parking Rises to Meet Curbside Competition


Smart Parking Rises to Meet Curbside Competition


Michael Bradner


Finding available parking spaces is a significant challenge worldwide. A 2023 global survey of 5,000 motorists found that 92 percent had regular difficulty finding parking. This is especially true in cities, where, according to a 2022 United Nations report, 55 percent of the global population lives today. 


Cities, law enforcement, and campuses are increasingly focused on optimizing, allocating, and managing curb space as the demand for parking increases alongside population growth. Smart parking technology based on automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) is playing a key role in modernizing curb management, improving both parking enforcement and compliance. 


ALPR systems include specialized cameras that capture license plate images and analytics that automate reading, identification, and potential matching to license plates listed in a live database. These systems make it easier for law enforcement, municipal, and commercial organizations to locate vehicles of interest and enforce parking restrictions. ALPR technology not only improves the parking experience for motorists, but can also help reduce traffic and emissions, drive operational efficiency, increase parking compliance, and improve officer safety. 


Stepping away from manual enforcement

As technology has evolved, the days of uniformed officers walking around parked cars all day checking parking permits has become a thing of the past; it’s time-consuming and inefficient. And people don’t like getting ticketed. It’s why officers can often be the target of violent outbursts. Issuing and printing physical permits is also time-consuming, and costly. Collecting and paying for permits can be a hassle for customers, too. They often forget their permits or move them from one vehicle to another. With physical permits, parking is hard to enforce, and fraud is almost impossible to quantify.


When parking is managed manually, taking the time to figure out how parking lots, garages, and curbs are being used every day can drain resources and budgets. But this information is vital to decision-making as cities and organizations work to optimize parking inventory and improve services. Finding an easier way to gather those insights is critical to operations.


ALPR solutions improve operational efficiency and the overall parking experience

Cities, campuses and private parking companies are deploying ALPR parking solutions to manage growing competition for the curbside. Modernizing this process benefits both the organizations managing parking and motorists utilizing it. Specifically, ALPR solutions are helping organizations to:


Improve enforcement: When parking rules and permits aren’t properly enforced, lots can fill up with non-paying customers. ALPR can help by recording vehicles as they enter and leave monitored lots, alerting staff to off-street violations and lot occupancy in real time. An ALPR camera can be mounted on an enforcement vehicle to continuously scan license plates and send real-time alerts. This approach can be applied for on-street parking as well. Also, for on-street parking, ALPR enables teams to digitally chalk vehicles without ever leaving their vehicles, and enforce all parking rules simultaneously. 


Increase compliance: ALPR gives organizations the ability to see which lots have the most vehicles in violation and dynamically adjust patrol routes to enforce them. It can identify scofflaws as part of routine enforcement, so organizations can address repeat offenders. Modern ALPR solutions can also automatically select enforcement zones and rules based on GPS coordinates.


Reduce emissions: Going gateless helps reduce vehicle idling and emissions and improves driver experience. A fixed ALPR system can alert staff to vehicles in violation, helping teams manage multiple remote lots. 


Automate access and prevent fraud: ALPR allows organizations to use license plates as credentials; for example, for city workers in municipal lots. Fixed cameras alert staff to illegal parkers and can be used to track when approved sanitation or maintenance vehicles enter or exit particular lots. 


Vehicle tracking for PARCS: For Parking Access and Revenue Control Systems (PARCS) that offer real time computerized parking systems for transient and credentialed customers, ALPR can track where people have parked, help long-term parking customers locate their vehicles, check how long vehicles have been parked in a lot, and identify vehicles that are wanted or designated stolen upon entering a PARCS facility. 


Improve customer experience: Pay-by-plate parking removes the expense and complication of printed tickets and permits. Some ALPR solutions enable online registration for permits or payment using a license plate, saving organizations significant time during renewal periods. 


Mobile post payment, in particular, is growing in popularity. Some ALPR solutions enable this service that allows attendees to arrive at a venue, park their vehicles, enjoy the event, show or game, and leave, all without stopping to use on-site payment equipment. Instead, they can pay for parking before, during or after the event using a mobile device. This service benefits more than those who use it, as it reduces congestion around pay stations and gets attendees in and out faster.


Take advantage of technology innovations: Some ALPR solutions can be used with other solutions such as mobile pay stations, payment apps and digital signage. They can even be integrated with body-worn cameras so officers can record any incidents and stay safe on the job.


Many organizations and cities are unifying their ALPR systems with security systems on a single platform. This enables them to quickly retrieve, and review video and data associated with license plates to gather evidence. Some can even directly alert law enforcement agencies to vehicles of interest without parking staff’s knowledge.


Use collected data to improve continually: Data captured by an ALPR system can aid in defining routes based on peak occupancy, target areas with low compliance, reduce ticketing disputes, and automatically identify scofflaws.


As urban populations grow and competition for the curb gets more intense, technology solutions that automate and optimize parking processes are helping cities, parking organizations, campuses, and motorists to meet the challenge. 


Michael Bradner is the product manager for parking solutions at Genetec and can be reached at

Article contributed by:
Michael Bradner, Genetec
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