The Insiderís Perspective:
ALPR: The Future of Parking
By Jean-Pierre Picard
The parking landscape is changing, so a team at Genetec, with Parking Today, decided it was a good time to take a look at where things stand and where they’re going. To do that, the team reached out to Parking Technology Today readers earlier this year to get the insiders’ perspective.
Its research turned up some interesting findings. For one, parking in North America is, at the moment, still quite “old school.” Whereas organizations in other regions have made the move to digital parking enforcement, many in North America are still using physical permits and barriers to manage their parking.
Even so, we seem to be on the cusp of a major shift, as 70% of the people interviewed said they plan on implementing an automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) system within the next one to three years, and a full 88% said that they see an ALPR system as a good investment.
Among organizations that have made the switch, satisfaction is extremely high. The team found that any negative responses to employing an ALPR system were isolated to “support from a supplier” and “low accuracy.” And these findings were not applicable to every solution.
The question, then, is why are North American organizations ready to make the shift? The answer might lie in what they are dealing with now. Many of the respondents cited parking enforcement, staffing, efficiency, and compliance issues as the top challenges that they are facing.
Asked for which tasks the organization would use an ALPR system, 25% of respondents stated that they would use it to enforce parking regulations and by-laws, while 20% said they would use it for tracking vehicles access to parking installations, and another 20% said they would use it for identifying scofflaws.
The numbers relating to the percentage of violators being captured by current enforcement methods breaks down like this:
Between 1 and 10% 29%
Between 10 and 25% 20%
Between 25 and 50% 22%
Between 50 and 75% 17%
Over 75% 12%
Switching to an ALPR system would allow organizations to capture license plate characters, vehicle images, time-stamps, and GPS coordinates. This would decrease the number of parking ticket disputes and increase compliance.
Given that nearly one-third of the responding organizations capture less than 10% of parking violators with their current systems, it comes as no surprise that so many are planning to move to an ALPR system in the near future.
In the case of identifying scofflaws, non-ALPR systems are notoriously inefficient, particularly when it comes to repeat offenders. Because an ALPR system is better at identifying and tracking scofflaws, making the switch can generate a significant short-term boost in revenue, often enough to pay for the system itself.
In addition to parking enforcement, respondents also cited tracking violations as an important issue that requires addressing. There are innumerable ways in which drivers can circumvent rules and regulations in the current system. These violations range from placing paper tickets face-down in the vehicle and parking in the wrong spots to fraudulent permits and tail-gating into garages.
While 35% of respondents estimated that 5% of the vehicles using their parking spaces are in violation of rules or by-laws, one-third estimated that, for their organization, this number is between 10% and 20%. This means that 30% of respondents estimate that 1 in every 5 vehicles is in violation.
Switching to an ALPR system would eliminate most violations that relate to the issuing of physical tickets or assigned parking spots. This would then significantly reduce the number of vehicles in violation in an organization’s parking lot, structure or facility.
making the switch to greater efficiency
Having adequate staff to effectively enforce parking regulations in lots and spaces is a very real problem. Respondents stated repeatedly that having the manpower to cover the area — regardless of its size or number of lots — is a top concern. Given that it is unlikely that these organizations will be able to increase their budgets enough in the near future to hire sufficient staff to run the current system, their best — and, in fact, the most efficient — option is to change the system itself.
Implementing an ALPR system would allow these organizations to automate their license plate reading and identification, which would make it easier to locate vehicles of interest and enforce parking restrictions. Specifically, an ALPR system would allow organizations to automatically capture license plate numbers in order to enforce parking permits or time-limited zone rules and to conduct lot inventories.
By automating the process with an ALPR system, organizations could significantly increase the efficiency of current enforcement personnel. Additionally, making the switch would allow them to manage their systems more effectively without expanding their parking department.
One emerging trend in the industry is the move to issuing paperless or virtual permits. This allows organizations to reduce costs, as well as the administrative headaches associated with managing and printing permits. These new systems also allow organizations to move the registration process online and to use vehicular license plates for identification purposes.
While other markets have made this switch, only 18% of those surveyed in North America use paperless or virtual permits.
increased safety for parking personnel
An important issue raised by some of the respondents was the safety of their parking enforcement personnel. In addition to increasing efficiency, some ALPR systems also can increase safety for parking personnel.
Now, organizations have the option to purchase an ALPR system that offers digital wheel-imaging for chalking and shared-permits enforcement support. This feature records a vehicle’s position and license plate when parking personnel drive by and then compares this “first seen” position on a return visit. The system can flag any vehicle that is in violation of local time limit rules, including same position, block-face or district time limits.
Eliminating the need to manually chalk tires certainly improves efficiency, but also dramatically increases the safety of personnel who are no longer required to move and crouch down around parked cars.
Parking enforcement personnel can simply drive past vehicles with a vehicle-mounted license plate reader that records plates. This feature takes parking enforcement personnel out of the unsafe situations.
Overall, the team at Genetec received the same insiders’ perspective time and again. According to respondents, an ALPR system would save time, streamline the process, increase employee safety, provide more accurate parking lot coverage, and reduce workloads.
It can hardly be surprising, then, that so many parking operations in North America seem ready to make the switch.