Parking embraces new mobile technology

PCI has recently noticed the emergence of several new mobile, location-based and social media applications designed to benefit the car parker. In some cases, these applications are designed to manage the parking demand – such as the San Francisco smart parking system – giving users the option to use one’s mobile phone to add time to parking meters, as well as sending alerts when the time is running low, and allowing to add more time remotely via the phone – without ever visiting the meter in person.

Over the Christmas period, The Mall of America started to broadcast twitter updates to its followers on the parking availability for last minute Christmas shopping.

Parkmobile also recently launched an iPhone and iPad application that allows users to start and stop their parking transactions.

But it is the recent emergence of community-based apps for Smart Phones that has made PCI sit up and take notice.

Two products, called ParkPatrol and MapKats, send alerts to mobile users when a parking officer is near their car. People who have this app on their phones can – with one button – report the location of parking officers they see in the street. The server then cross-checks incoming reports with all the checked-in parked cars on its database, and sends instant text alerts to drivers when an officer comes within 200 metres of a parked car!

A spokeswoman for the Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW said that as technology advances, the creation and use of applications such as ParkPatrol are “essentially unavoidable”.  “Councils issue parking fines to manage traffic, ensure local roads remain safe and encourage a greater level of parking space turnover in areas of high demand,” the spokeswoman said.

The developer of ParkPatrol claims that some inner-city Sydney suburbs, such as Surry Hills, Darlinghurst and the CBD have become very active reporting communities and that an alarm to a parked car is 95 per cent accurate and is more than likely to mean a parking inspector is nearby.

PCI thinks that if these apps become a useful tool to encourage greater space turnover in these areas, councils’ goal will be achieved with a corresponding reduction in the number of tickets written. It will be interesting to see how this will impact on parking revenues currently being generated.

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