Parking and Mobility Landscape in Australia
Spot specialize in smart parking and mobility solutions to create smarter, more sustainable and safer cities and campuses. After successful implementations for major cities across Australia, Spot expanded into the United States in 2018, where they now also serve cities, university campuses and airports.
Launching Spot Parking, I had a vision of leveraging rapidly changing technology in the parking and mobility industry to ensure better parking information for drivers and managers, increased safety while driving and a path to sustainability.
Australians have always been swift adopters of technology, particularly mobile and cashless, leaving no exception for the parking and transportation sectors. In another life prior to founding Spot Parking, I was the CEO of the Public Transport Ticketing Authority in Australia and had the huge challenge of introducing cashless ticketing across New South Wales ferries, buses, and trains. Australia now has integrated cashless public transportation in most States, and in cities such as Sydney, any cashless card is accepted for payment as well as the “Opal” stored value card.
The strong take-up of cashless transport has inspired State and Local governments to extend the payment technology to parking - particularly commuter car parks. Customers who travel on public transport are rewarded by gaining priority access to commuter car parks using their cashless card.
Australia’s path to cashless payments
You will rarely find single car space parking meters in Australian cities, causing more cities to move to cashless meters. Meter refreshment tenders are increasingly about smart meters, solar power, IoT connection to occupancy, cashless and servicing multiple bays. Multi-purpose meters also act as EV Charging stations.
The most common form of parking technology has traditionally been pay and display tickets, largely based on the legislative basis of what constitutes a legal parking spot and fine. This hampered some of the early attempts of pay by phone - as New South Wales legislation still required a physical ticket. We had an observed situation in one of our cities where if you paid for parking on your phone you still had to walk to the meter and print out a ticket to place on your dashboard - not a great customer experience.
Parking can cost you your license
State and local governments in Australia have a high dependence on parking and fine revenue, therefore innovations in compliance and payment technology have taken precedence over innovations that better encourage urban mobility and equitable curb use.
Parking fines in urban cities across Australia are amongst the highest in the world. If you overstay at a parking meter, the fines are $100 to $140. However, if your infringements go beyond the lack of payment and you are parking in the wrong zone, or you haven’t displayed a disabled sticker the fine is an eye watering $587.
Incorrect parking can actually cause you to lose your driver’s licence in Australia. Some citations not only come with a monetary penalty but with a demerit point against your licence. For example, as part of a child safety approach, wrongfully parking around school grounds during designated “school zones”, usually morning and afternoon drop offs, can lead to a loss of licence.
Australia has very complex parking signs
Understanding parking rules in capital cities, particularly Sydney can be very difficult. There can be over ten or fifteen different instructions on one parking sign. Rules change depending upon the time of day, or day of week, or the type of vehicle you drive. In fact, this complexity is what led us to creating Spot Parking in the first place to digitise the rules – and tell people simply can I park here or not?
Australian startups have created a number of parking app and finders, however something my international colleagues in parking find extraordinary, is that the New South Wales government is actually using taxpayers money to build a parking payment app, while also lobbying to mandate cities and counties to use it.
While the concept of having one ubiquitous parking platform for discovery and payment across multiple towns and cities is a noble one and great for customer experience, the government funded app has attracted a lot of criticism for perceived competitive neutrality and procurement issues.
An industry colleague I recently spoke with is returning to the United States to grow his business and lamented “I’m sick of having to compete with governments building their own apps. It’s crazy.”
Parking and Mobility Innovations in Australia:
Australia has seen tremendous growth in transforming the parking and mobility industry to become more technology friendly, virtual, safe for drivers and sustainable. Some of the trends shaping the industry include:
1- Share economy approach to parking. A number of companies like Share with Oscar and Divvy are leveraging under-utilized residential or commercial parking assets to become the airBNB of parking.
2- Urban freight: Spot are working with the state and local government on coding the curb and having bookable loading zoners
3- Connected and autonomous vehicles. In late 2021, Porsche Park won the Australian Parking industry innovation award by being one of a kind to provide Porsche owners with live parking information, navigation and payment information for designated off-street parking locations around Melbourne, ensuring a safe and simple parking experience for Porsche owners. Porsche Park was able to create the platform through their partnership with UbiPark.
4- Micromobility and better curb use. They all have one thing in common, they are not just about disruption of mobility to drive efficiency, but rather about enabling cities to work better. This is where change begins.
Challenges the parking industry is facing with curbsides include: double parking, unsafe drop-offs, unsafe package/freight deliveries, parking fines, pollution and difficulty with ride-sharing apps.
A driving force for smart parking is certainly the smart city agenda across Australian governments. The Smart City Alliance ANZ is very active in bringing government and industry together to discuss smart city objectives and the concept of a digital twin is gaining a lot of momentum. The New South Wales government has invested in a Spatial Digital Twin project for all key infrastructure and many of the governments that I am working with have this on their agenda.
Governments around Australia are increasingly publishing their mobility data in open portal platforms and encouraging data from both private and public sector to be in these portals.
The Victorian Government Department of Transport has just released an innovation challenge called Data Meets User challenge which is based around organising public transport and curbside data to better inform the users of their transport network.
This challenge has invited industry to solve two burning issues #1 A better multimodal travel planner for public transport data and #2 better curbside data and in particular a better way to manage commercial freight and loading zones.
Following the increase in online shopping, and the proliferation of democratised home delivery services such as Uber the competition for the curb has increased. With so many residential areas now becoming quasi-commercial areas with so many people working from home we’re seeing a lot of pressure on the use of the curb and cities and the Victorian government is tackling this in a novel way with their innovation Challenge.
Another innovative city in Australia is the city of Parramatta. They were the first in Australia to digitise their curb side assets and make this information available to consumers through a Parking Finder. The city has continued to innovate:, through COVID they introduced click and collect zones outside of chemists to facilitate contactless shopping. They also recently introduced a bike parking map to their curb side digital infrastructure showing not only the location of bike parking but also a photograph of it to help guide cyclists where best to park.
A promising future for Australia
The future of Australia remains promising as new technologies continue to develop and adapt, ensuring an easier and safer driving and commuting experience for drivers. Technologies such as parking applications, camera detected licence plate payment methods, parking bay-by-bay sensors, and the shift to electric cars are only a few of the ways to combat street congestion and driving safety protocols, while ensuring a sustainable environment. Although the need for new technologies is evident, it is important to have full transparency on how such services are being provided and paid for.
Elizabeth Zealand is CEO of Spot Parking Ltd. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org