The Parking Sensor Debate


The Parking Sensor Debate

Parking sensor technology has evolved significantly in a short amount of time for our industry. The debate over parking sensors has increasingly become a hot topic.
Are they too expensive? Are they accurate? Do I need a sensor in every parking space? Should I conduct a trial? What do I do with the data? Why do those vendors keep calling the mayor’s office?
We will weigh in on the debate, in a session titled “On-Street Technology,” at this year’s Parking Industry Exhibition (PIE), March 16-19 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, IL.
Having been involved with parking sensors since the early trials, I am often asked, “Are sensors worth the investment?” My response, as with any other parking industry question, is that it depends on your program’s goals and objectives.
As with any financial investment, you need to understand the cost and support requirements for a parking sensor program. More important, you need to determine the return on investment (ROI) that you are seeking in order to achieve your goals.
In some municipalities, parking sensors have provided a revenue opportunity by resetting meters and allowing directed parking enforcement. Other cities are simply looking for a proactive traffic management tool for parking guidance to mitigate congestion or improve customer service.
As a guidance tool, you might not recoup your direct financial investment, but should you consider the overall impacts of traffic mitigation or emissions?
The sensor solution can be very expensive, and the marketing tactics can be overwhelming when your municipal leaders are inundated with information about the benefit of sensors, without any data about the drawbacks.
The concept and benefits sound great, but can your city really afford to install parking sensors? We will use our session at PIE 2014, sponsored and produced by Parking Today, to try to add some clarity to this topic.
If your objective is analytics and data, can you achieve those goals by using other available resources on your streets, such as parking meter or license plate recognition data?
Earlier this year, I conducted an opinion study of parking professionals throughout the U.S. The results were consistent: Initial and ongoing parking sensor costs are prohibitive. “The data from the sensor alone do not represent a compelling enough argument for the cost,” the respondents concluded.  
The constant feedback I got was that if sensors were more affordable, the respondents could justify the business case, and they would pursue the acquisition. But, in most cases, a system must pay for itself and remain self-sustaining in order to move forward, and meter resetting is not an option for every city.
If you are considering parking sensors, you should join this debate at PIE 2014.
The panel discussion will include representatives from some municipalities that have installed sensors, and some that did not proceed from the trial period, to share their experiences with sensors and, more important, the overall cost impact to their agency and whether they achieved their ROI.
The session also will have vendor representatives to address technical questions and present some case studies.
No filibustering or name-calling allowed. This PIE 2014 discussion will be an opportunity for you to ask questions and determine if parking sensors are the right answer for you.
Julie Dixon is President of Dixon Resources Unlimited, consulting services specializing in municipal parking issues. She has more than 20 years’ experience with transportation and parking programs, including five-plus years as a Serco Inc. Project Director. Contact her at
PIE 2014 will be March 16-19 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare
in Rosemont, IL. For more information and to register,
go to
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Julie Dixon
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