On street Adventures — And lost revenue


On street Adventures — And lost revenue

I am visiting a company that makes a gizmo that you bury in the street and it determines whether or not the parking space is occupied and if so how long the car is there.  This isn’t the only company that ostensibly has such stuff, but I’m here so I’m getting the nickel tour.

Out of the blocks, the concept is an "automated chalking" system. seems most on street parking is of the "park free for two hours then move your car" variety. My guess is that in most cities, the concept of enforcing this parking is anathema due particularly to the labor intensiveness of the process.

I think most cities pay lip service to such enforcement (I guess I could check with Mark over at Parking Zone to see how much chalk he sells.)  One fellow in a meeting here told me that he thinks that 95% of the on street fining simply goes unnoticed.

Consider this — If a parking space turns over 4 times in a day and it is chalked once a day, your potential of catching someone is only 25% of the possible violators. AND that’s considering its actually done once a day.

Certainly many central business districts are done more often, but my guess is that in outlying areas, the parking scofflaws are getting by basically Scott free. Maybe the chalkers go through twice a week, just to keep people honest. Yeah, right.

So, is there really a need to automate the chalking process. My buddies at Tannery Creek have a system in use in Calgary which uses a camera mounted on a car that digitizes license plates and then if you drive down the street twice, you get the bad guys. Of course the system costs more than a chalker, but you can cover a lot more ground.

Then there’s monitoring each space with some kind of hockey puck sized gizmo thats either stuck to the street or buried in a hole under it.  There are a number of companies trying this but my guess is that the problem is difficult and most are "just about there." My research tells me that there may be one or two of these gizmos that actually work and can work in actual in field use.

However there are still issues.  How do you know if someone simply comes out, drives out of the space, and then right  back in. (Some folks, I’m told, will come out and wipe the chalk off their tires or move the car a foot ahead so the officer can’t see the chalk mark.) 

The technology has to be pretty fancy. It exists, and of course I’m sworn to secrecy, but frankly someone would have to put a lot of these really REALLY high tech gizmos in the street to bring the R and D cost in line.

All that having been said, I suggest that this is the wave of the future in on street parking for the scofflaw reason, and another.

That is, that if one is truly going to manage their on street parking, they must have a good knowledge of the statistics. Data is in fact king, and having that data at your fingertips is all important.

You not only need to know if a space is full, the the length of stay of the car, the turn over, and the like. You don’t get these statistics from periodic chalking.

Even if you don’t have the personnel to check every street four times a day, if the devices in the street "remember" the data and you pick it up when you do go by, you can certainly then begin to have a better understanding of your rates, and how to set them.

The group I’m with says they can bring the data "on line" back to central, however they say that doing it over the local wifi network is problematic at best. Picking it up with a hand held (in this case a PDA) and then bringing it back is more solid.

Yes, I know that virtually all meters can give you statistical information, in real time. However in each case there is a bit, that of length of stay, that is not knowable. Sensors give you that information. And frankly, if you are going to be a true Shoupista, you need that information so you, like Goldilocks, can set your rates not too low, not too high, but just right.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if the parking rates could change hour by hour, depending on the available space. Parking, unlike most other commodities, has a finite number of spaces available. Its the buyers of that space that are variable. On some days, on some hours, the number of potential customers per space might be 10 for every space — a time for high rates. On other days, or times, the reverse might be true.

To have that knowledge and be able to leverage the rate structure to fit would be wonderful. You would be able to set rates so space was always available, and maximize the convenience for your citizenry.

Of course, you would also maximize the income, too.


Picture of John Van Horn

John Van Horn

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