Addition by subtraction

It’s widely understood that between now and 2050, approximately six billion people will be living in urban environments. That’s three-quarters of the entire population of the planet living in cities. The sheer scope of issues, such as pollution, cost of living and traffic congestion, created by those numbers is staggering. How we transform our cities from the centuries-old model to modern versions that accept that these changes are happening will define how we live. The key is focusing on smart transformations to ease the burden on present and future cities. One such transformation is the digitalization of physical assets, such as reducing “pay and display” (P&D) parking machines and switching to digital versions.

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Why should we reduce the number of P&Ds on the streets?

Anyone that’s had to park in the last thirty years has used a P&D machine at some point. You pay at the terminal, get a ticket that shows how much time you have to park and display it on the dashboard of your car. Using this method, drivers have to guess how long they may require. If they guess wrong, they must come back to their car or risk getting a parking fine, making the entire endeavour inefficient. Parking enforcement officers also need to inspect the parking ticket displayed in each vehicle. When someone is parked in a time-limited zone, enforcement officers need to chalk the tire of a vehicle and then return at a later time. The administration of pay and display machines is resource intensive. Reducing the number of P&Ds increases efficiency and reduces the resources needed to keep them running.

How much does it cost to run P&Ds?

The machines themselves are expense, around 8,000 – 10,000 EUR new. And as far as ongoing management costs – maintenance, insurance, cash handling, paper roll replacement, electricity, data communication, software updates, backend software and vandalism insurance – both local authorities and private companies are responsible for footing a bill that runs from 1500 – 3000 EUR per year per machine. Given the high introduction price of new high-quality P&D’s, determining how many are actually needed becomes vital, but clearly the cost of buying and maintaining P&Ds is high.

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But how does reducing P&Ds make cities work more efficiently?

In the past, the system worked: you needed to pay for parking, here’s the proof you paid. In the digital world of today, however, that is simply not enough. Particularly when the alternative removes so much of the “leg work” involved with P&D machines and adds so much value. Data drives the new smart city, offering the type of information that helps all actors – cities, operators and drivers – make informed decisions that positively affect the whole. For cities and operators, the data helps to optimize pricing, zoning, inventory and restrictions.

 But it’s not just about improving the parking experience; it’s about breathing life into cities’ digital ecosystem that meet citizens demands, reduce infrastructure costs, improve traffic flow and enforcement efficiency.

What offerings does EasyPark have that can help build cities’ digital ecosystem by reducing P&D machines?

EasyPark offers a multifaceted solution that can define the how this new ecosystem works. It starts with increasing mobile payment alternatives, like the EasyPark app, with which drivers can start, stop or prolong their parking using only their smartphone, all while cities and operators save on costs associated with handling manual payments. This data feeds into a digital space that collects all inputs from the digital parking system, transferring them to a cloud-based server which enables fully efficient enforcement in multi-provider setups.

In so doing, P&D machines can be reduced and replaced by digital ones, since more and more people are moving onto mobile apps. This in turns helps drive the digitalization further, meaning increased quality of data and thereby insight and overview of the city or facility. This is when drivers can be guided directly to available parking, whether on street or in gated parking facilities. And parking management has access to a macro-based overview of all parking related assets which harmonise the entire process, which in turn facilitates better urban mobility management.

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Has this approach worked before, and if so where?

It has. Take Copenhagen, Denmark, which has already seen roughly 90% penetration of mobile paid parking and today has a 100% digital parking ecosystem. The city originally had 1510 P&Ds on its streets. Seven hundred and ninety-eight were rebuilt to be ticket-less digital P&Ds, while 712 were rebuilt as infostands, which helped the city communicate it's parking rules and regulations to its citizens directly on the street, even after reducing the amount of parking meters. This helped the process of speeding up digitalization, while it made sure that everyone had the information at hand that they need. Even those, like some of the elderly, who don’t use smartphones were provided with call-in information on the infostands to pay for parking with their mobiles.

And in Halmstad, Sweden, they used a similar integration system to go from 3-4% of mobile users last year to 40% this year, and that number continues to climb every month. In the first half of 2018, revenues from P&D machines decreased by three million kronor while mobile revenues increased by the same amount. Drivers are ready, willing and able to move their parking transactions into digital realm.

Cities like Copenhagen and Halmstad are proving that it starts with the simple subtraction of P&D machines that eventually adds up to a smoother, more efficiently run cityscape that the future, and the present, need to survive. EasyPark has helped numerous cities reduce their costs on P&D's and replace with infostands and digital P&Ds.

 We have vast experience in ensuring a smooth transition, so let us know how we can help you, too.