Exploring intricacies of parking management

Exploring the intricacies of parking management and the impact of smart technologies, fmME reaches out to the experts to share their insights on this evolving market

SPECIAL REPORTS, Projects, Middle east, Parking, Smart technologies

With more and more cars appearing on the road with each passing day, it is becoming an increasingly important to ensure that adequate parking space is available. With each new facility, consideration is needed to provide ample spacing for employees, residents and visitors. The simple fact is that orgnisations have to become more involved in parking management, whether it be logistics, operation or an facilitator of advanced smart technologies.

One such entity is Xerox Services, the business service arm of US-based global enterprise, Xerox Corporation. The company boasts over three decades of experience in parking management, across 30 and 88 cities in both the US and UK, respectively. Xerox processes 16mn parking tickets annually and oversees the operation of over 150,000 metres of parking space.

Its range of services and technologies in transportation systems include electronic tolls, infrastructure installation, fare collection and back-office processing.

“The goal is to deliver intelligent parking management systems that optimise parking programs and deliver convenient solutions for drivers, which in turn, reduces costs and street congestion,” comments Andrew Horne, general manager of Xerox Emirates.

According to the general manager, one of the more pressing challenges currently faced by government officials and developers alike, lies with over deployment of parking management technologies from multiple third-party vendors.
The argument here is that an integrated platform is far more effective and manageable than the combination of several systems.

“Cities incorporating a variety of technologies, products and services from multiple third-party vendors are tasked with the time-consuming challenges associated with managing various vendors,” explains Horne.

“At times, these vendors may have competing incentives or interests. Parking solutions are complex but, for customers, parking should be simple.”

To deliver reductions in both cost and street congestion across the entirety of its global client base, Xerox focuses on honing a comprehensive end-to-end service.

Ultimately, the firm strives to optimise parking programmes and processes, all the while remaining convenient for both operators and motorists.

Falling under the umbrella of the parking management suite, technologies employed by Xerox include violation processing, both at the enterprise level or off-the-shelf software, as well as meter, sensor and off-street revenue collection systems. It also comprises operations platforms and processes for managed receivables and collections.

“By integrating technology with our proven strategies for efficiently managing programmes, cities and organisations can gain powerful results for their smart parking requirements,” comments Horne.

As one of the largest independent parking companies active in Dubai, Concordia oversees the management of 30,000 bays, providing enforcement and parking fining services to the master community of Jumeriah Lake Towers.

The IFM provider collects roughly $408,000 – $545,000 (AED 1.5 – 2mil) from its operation of retail parking areas, the bulk of the proceeds return to the community to help reduce the service charge. Concordia has also launched a parking portal, www.parkingdubai.com, to support its operations, primarily utilised for leasing and bay marking. Through the website, the firm leases about 2,000 bays a year.

“Generally, the biggest parking challenges lies around enforcement,” explains Fergus Appleton, general manager, Concordia.

“Imagine if you are managing 25,000 parking bays. Probably about 22,000 of those are designated to an individual or a company. To make sure people are not parking in other people’s bays over 25,000 bays, is an enormous challenge.”

Receiving between 30 and 35 complaints daily, Appleton explains that the current approach to dealing with parking offenders is limited to establishing communication. This often leads to enforcement officers having to respond to an issue by liaising with local law enforcement, in order to track down the owner of the illegally parked car.

To combat parking offenses, the IFM provider introduced clamping and towing penalties in its repertoire, further supported with the launch of its newly developed parking management software, Margaret.

Developed wholly in-house, the Android-based platform is essentially a reporting application utilised by both enforcement staff and end-users to deal with parking offenders.

End-users can log a complaint on an offending vehicle via their mobile device. The user can access the application, which includes all their details, use the camera on their smartphone to take a picture with a time stamp and file a report.

The complaint is then sent internally to the responsible parking attendant who arrives on the scene to check authenticity. Once confirmed, Concordia’s employee then clamps the vehicle, taking his own set of images to ensure no damages occurred during the process. After six hours, if no one arrives to address the fine, the vehicle is marked for towing. Each step of the process is managed through the application.

“It is a pretty powerful system. Rather than having ten staff across the community, you’ve got 25,000 end-users who are telling you everything that is going on,” beams Appleton.

“The system was inspired by the Dubai Police who use a similar application to report traffic accidents. We needed to take up the challenge and figure out how we can empower customers to do something similar, but for the services that we provide.”

Another interesting point of the process is when offenders come to pay their fine. Concordia’s employees are equipped with Mobile Point of Sales (MPOS) devices. Relatively fresh in the market, the devices, which are issued by the local banks, allow operators to conduct transactions while on the move. According to Appleton, Concordia is the first IFM company to deploy them.

Ensuring that end-users arrive to their assigned parking however, is an entirely different challenge and an area that Walker Parking Consultants particularly focuses on. With over 50 years of operation, the parking consulting and parking design firm has over 12,000 successful parking projects under its name.

While the firm specialises in a number of parking-related disciplines, which include operation, parking equipment, traffic flow, design and maintenance, growing demand for smart technologies has conceived smart parking. But what exactly falls under this concept?

“The term smart parking is a new term and is still being defined, however most people associate it with parking space availability technology,” explains J. Deon Bender, P.E., project manager and acting director of operations at Walker Parking consultants.

“This technology helps drivers find a vacant spot using sensors that detect the presence or absence of a vehicle in a parking space and dynamic messages sign incoming drivers to empty parking.”

The most obvious benefit of smart parking is that it makes it easier and faster for motorists to find vacant spots, thus enhancing the user experience. The lesser known advantage however is related to high parking occupancy and utilisation.

As Bender explains, parking structures lacking space availability technology, rarely utilise more than 90% of its capacity, simply because users often have trouble finding the remaining 10% space. Smart parking can aid increasing utilisation to over 95%.

Already in the GCC, a number of smart space technologies are being deployed, particularly within the Dubai market. Residents in the country are already quite familiar with the red or green lights and variable message signs that indicate parking availability. What may be less well-known, are the phone applications that display parking spaces in real-time.

“Recently there have been systems installed that can remind you where you parked your car, all you have to do is remember your license plate number, and it can tell you how to get to your car,” adds Bender.

The introduction of these technologies within the GCC highlight the region’s enthusiasm towards pushing the envelope and the willingness to put the unproven to the test. It is perhaps for this reason alone that Walker Parking’s project manager sees the region becoming a role model for other developed markets within the next ten years.

“Coupled with proper infrastructure, parking will talk to the surrounding roads and drivers, reporting available parking directly to the end-user via dynamic message signs and phone applications,” comments Bender.

“With the help of smart parking, smart cities in the GCC will be able to balance queues and on street traffic flows by re-routing cars to alternate parking locations, based upon real time occupancy data,” he concludes.

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