Smart Parking – What’s so “Smart” About it?


Smart Parking – What’s so “Smart” About it?

An article from ITS International, posted on Parknews, attempts to define smart parking and I think comes up short. To wit:

Smart parking should:

identify or forecast open parking spaces and relay that information to drivers

support multiple payment options – whether by meter, kiosk or smart phone

support enforcement efforts—either by informing agents of expired meters or by embedding automatic enforcement

feed valuable data to the city’s transportation agency to inform greater transportation policies and programs such as traffic management and variable pricing initiatives

Note that this definition includes technology which deals with determining whether or not an on street space is occupied and feeds that data somewhere, either to a potential parker or the city. Fair enough. Read the entire article by checking out

But, is that all parking does when it is ‘Smart?” I think not.

First of all, there is more to parking that just on street detection. There is off street parking, for instance, which parks many more cars than those on street. There are park and rides that feed riders to rapid transit and light rail. There is valet, on and off airport parking, and of course the myriad issues involved in parking at universities, hotels, hospitals, and shopping centers.

In an upcoming issue of PT, we have an article that talks of frictionless parking, that uses technology to enable parkers to choose many different ways to park. They can pull tickets, sign up for license plate recognition and pay on line, use valet services, and even reserve parking. All these are available so the parker can decide what best fits her needs.

Someone at PIE last week quoted the late great Tip O’Neill, Boston politico, that “all Politics is local.” The slight change from Tip was that “All parking is local.”

Smart Parking must fit the needs of the local community. The needs of a shopping center is different from that of a hotel, or a municipality, or an airport. The needs of Park City are different than the needs of Los Angeles. You get the idea.

For parking to be “smart” managers must first determine the needs of the sector it is serving, and then select the technology needed to meet those needs. My friend Julie Dixon, one of the two quoted in the article, summed it up nicely:

“Smart parking is not just something you can plug in. It can be expensive to deploy and to maintain. You need to determine exactly what you want to get out of the program.”

Yep –




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John Van Horn

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