Smarter parking meters for “human cities”

An article published by social scientist Thomas Erickson compares his experience of parking in two cities. In one, overstaying the allotted time on his meter led to a ‘courtesy ticket’ with no charge as a warning. In another city, a 3 minute lapse led to a $42 ticket, with no reprieve for first offenders.

In his article on A Smarter Planet, he asks what should a smart parking meter do when time is running out? On the one hand, it could contact the enforcement authority to warn them that someone is about to overstay; on the other, it could act as a citizen advocate, warning drivers ahead of time so they have a chance to renew their parking. He also considers whether the size of the fine should be proportionate to the amount of time overstayed.

His point is that as our cities grow smarter, we have a choice about how we can apply that knowledge to how people experience their city, and the social consequences of the systems and policies they support. He concludes by saying that whilst ‘efficiency is important it’s important to think about how to use smartness to design systems that are empathetic, that recognise that we all lead busy lives, and that give people a break when they are running a bit late’.

Nice sentiments for our industry to take heed of and bear in mind. Often parking generates negative experiences and therefore ensuring new systems are designed with the customer in mind is really important in governing positive perceptions for the work that we all do.  Mr Erickson however fails to acknowledge that revenues from parking meters and infringement notices do form a significant component of local government revenue and this needs to be also taken into consideration when planning the financing for improvements to public spaces.

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