Should Parking Be Part of ITS?
If So, Why and How?
By Amalendu Chatterjee
Every state Department of Transportation (DOT), in collaboration with National Highway Transportation and Safety Agency (NHTSA), has been defining intelligent transportation systems (ITS) to automate transportation services – traffic management, improve safety and security of highways, avoid traffic congestion, reduce CO2 emission and avoid other emergency situations.
Lately, city planners, many technocrats and visionaries including parking professionals are exploring viabilities to fold parking into the automated electronic ITS framework. Unfortunately, the current parking paradigm is not even mentioned in the ITS Strategic Plan (2015-2019) outlined by the Joint Program Office (JPO) of ITS and USDOT.
In 2009, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the federal government introduced a stimulus package for the transportation industry. Incentives, understanding, rationales and overall benefits must be explored to tie them together – the perspectives of this article.
The parking industry could not take full advantage of the 2009 stimulus package. Probable reasons:
• The parking infrastructure was neither robust nor smart/intelligent.
• No national standard with any national database for parking.
• Vendor-specific hardware with no application program interface (API) for network connectivity.
ITS has evolved into a virtual framework based on network or device connectivity. Parking also could evolve into a virtual framework, with network and device connectivity, to be at par. Modern technologies, derived benefits and new customer service scopes will be explained in this article.
ITS refers to the smart information and communication infrastructure with a database to manage traffic and enforce laws and regulations via the urban and suburban transportation networks. There are several major transportation networks in the U.S.: road, water, air and rail to carry cargo and people.
Road transport is the topic here, because travel is dominated by a network of more than 3.9 million miles of highways. Passenger transportation is dominated by vehicles of different kinds, such as cars, SUVs, vans and motorcycles, accounting for 86% of passenger-miles traveled. The remaining 14% are handled by planes, trains and buses.
As of 2015, there are more than 300 million private automobiles, more than 800 million parking spaces. Unfortunately, and practically, there are no comparable parking spaces for the more than 16 million trucks on the interstate highway corridors. The issue of the truck parking shortage has been raised in a Wall Street Journal article by Betsy Morris.
The 9/11 attacks raised the importance of ITS to a new level by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for surveillance of the roadways, but the reason not to include parking area surveillance in the original plan is not fully understood.
The Joint Program Office updated the plan for its 2015-2019 strategy with an overall objective as:
• Traffic management and enforcement of laws and regulations.
• Transportation safety and mobility with reduced traffic and vehicle ownership.
• Reduced environmental impact with auto drive- and auto-park-capable vehicles on the road.
• Private and public cooperation for rural development.
• Advanced communication-based information for increased productivity and effectiveness.
• Proper truck parking spaces of all sizes, shapes and contents along the U.S. interstate highway corridors.
Interestingly, the future parking industry should follow similar objectives for the 21st century framework, though the starting point is different.
In the debate over who should take the responsibility, I believe the onus is on the parking industry. All ITS devices have a role to play in a highway network operation for the best use of the capacity available, ensuring the most efficient, safe and sustainable way possible.
Highway networks allow users to make informed decisions on their travel choices – such as the latest driving information and route guidance. The concept of “connected” autonomous vehicles or driverless cars is becoming more feasible and gaining support, which will have major implications for highway network operations, which may need constant evaluation.
ITS Functions and Applications
ITS functions and applications are “smart” or “intelligent” software building blocks for a coordinated ride on the highway network. These functions and applications serve the enforcement officer, shipper, systems administrator, and driver via online automation and virtualization as much as possible.
The driver wants more reliability, minimum delays and comfort for individual mobility. The operator wants effective operations and decision-making, with constant updates of traffic conditions. The enforcement officer wants efficiency, and unbiased and fair treatment of all. And the shipper wants the safety and security of their goods and on-time delivery.
Reviewing Auto Parking Operations
According to IBM research, drivers use close to 47,000 gallons of gas and emit 730 tons of CO2 in the process of finding a parking place within a perimeter of 5 square miles in a city such as Los Angeles.
Not finding a parking place in a timely manner causes loss of productivity in the billions of dollars and increased traffic congestion and CO2 emissions.
Sophisticated but expensive vendor-specific street meters and access to garages with attendant are outdated. In spite of the above, more parking spaces are recommended by city planners, as more vehicle sales (some 8 to 10 million per year) are predicted down the road.
The parking industry occupies almost 45% of the city’s prime land. If this situation continues, there will be a shortage of prime land for city development. A parking paradigm change may be required to take the ITS lead. For example:
• Declaring parking spaces as national resources to preserve prime lands with an information database.
• Marking parking spaces like airline seats in each location for occupancy.
• Defining a parking district (PD) as the transportation hub for city travel.
• Invoking meter-less street and gateless garage parking without attendant.
• Introducing a national standard for uniformity.
• Ease regulations and space to vehicle ratio from 3:1.
• Uber- and Lyft-like on-demand and pay-as-you-use parking services for Generation Y.
• Decriminalizing parking services without tickets and escalating penalties.
• Taking advantage of built-in artificial intelligence capabilities of modern vehicles – auto-drive and -park.
• Networking “smart” cars, smartphone, drone and transportation hub.
One needs to upgrade old technology embedded in the current municipality-by-municipality infrastructure. How? We need to explore ITS such as virtual technologies, infrastructure and aligned service scope to derive full benefits.
Parking Strategy for the Future
The present parking configuration is hardware-oriented and vendor-specific. It takes a long time to upgrade from one vendor to a different one. Most hardware is not Internet-friendly with the application program interface (API). Many disrupting technologies are available to reduce capital costs, yearly maintenance and new service scope. There also are business models of airlines, toll collection and smartphone mobile apps to imitate for parking.
Ingredients of these models for parking are:
• Software emulation of hardware devices – cost reduction.Software building blocks are keys to emulate hardware. Bluetooth technology, automatic vehicle identification (AVI), high-speed cameras, drones and other devices with auto connectivity can accelerate meter and gate replacement. Centralized software and database will also make end-to-end operations more efficient. An Internet-based business model helps customization of services with a national account.
• Real-time online infrastructure – going virtual with a virtual parking web portal (VPWP). Higher utilization of all parking spaces is required before more spaces are provisioned. A national database can identify all parking space owners and their locations. This is required for revenue allocations once online reservations using websites are similar to airline, hotel or car rental reservations. A VPWP is a concept, published December 2012 in Parking Today magazine, to upgrade the traditional parking services with software building blocks, database and computer networks connectivity of mobile devices including smartphones.
• Deployment of a parking district to link city parking with transportation – a prelude to ITS. Such a district is a type of administrative jurisdiction or territory managed and dedicated by each municipality for the purpose of parking only. Drivers will be encouraged to park in these designated areas. Each space will be in a database for online review by all. Once parked, people will be transported to different parts of the city by bus, for example. Buses will run as frequently as required, with stops on-demand. Many auto-related businesses such as a carwash, tire change, gas station and repair, or even a dealership, can grow in these areas – a move to decongest the current city infrastructure. Auto-drive and -park capabilities of newly designed vehicles will further refine the parking district definition.
Overall Benefits of Parking Virtualizations
This article includes both commercial and private vehicle parking functions and applications under ITS building blocks. Benefits to be derived include:
• Managed traffic with fewer vehicles on the road.
• Common platform to compete with private transportation companies.
• Interactions among all agencies during disaster situations.
• Workload-sharing such as airline check-ins with all stakeholders.
• Software building blocks for updates and new services.
• Single payment for many transportation services.
• Online configuration and reconfigurations of ITS for
Contact Amalendu Chatterjee, VP-Technology at EximSoft International, at email@example.com.