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Parking Obsessed in 2016

Parking Obsessed in 2016
by Roger C. Lanctot on 02-03-2016 at 12:00 pm

 There’s a $20B problem facing drivers in U.S. cities – in fact, it affects drivers in cities all over the world. It is the challenge of locating an available and legal parking space.

Car parking has become a near obsession with multiple German car makers recently demonstrating automated car parking garages or, more near term, apps to enable remote parking of a car in a tight spot. App developers and connected car system designers want consumers to plan their trips, reserve parking spaces and pay for parking via the app or the on-board system. Volvo has made some significant strides here working with Parkopedia and, in China, EZParking.

But app developers and intelligent transportation professionals have seized on the claim that 40% of traffic in urban areas derives from people looking for parking spaces to turn the issue into a cause celebre. Traffic service providers like INRIX have gone so far as to acquire parking app suppliers – like ParkMe – more or less ignoring the fact that these app providers are actually struggling to gin up enough revenue to survive.

My bullshit detector begins buzzing when I hear industry executives getting excited about people reserving parking spaces. I have never reserved a parking space in my life. The only time it has been a real issue has been at sporting events where parking either is provided with the tickets or I have simply resigned myself to some inevitable remote lot misery.

But I understand that some people have a need to park on a daily basis and some people run the risk of paying parking fines on a daily basis. According to estimates provided by app developer SpotAngel, drivers in the U.S. pay $20B for parking fines and related towing fees. SpotAngel further estimates that the average San Francisco resident driver pays an average of $400 for parking annually.

Media outlets regularly report on the challenge of finding a legal parking spot given the complexity of on-street parking sign information. I readily admit that I am intimidated by the shift in the U.S. toward the mid-block parking fee collection box popularized throughout Europe. I am always afraid that I will pay and the system will either fail to accurately record my parking time or take my payment without noting the parking request – especially if there is no piece of paper to put under the windshield. (Don’t get me started on the topic of trying to read the tiny, dimly lit, black and white LCD displays.)

My personal feelings of suspicion come down to trust. I suspect that cities are either deliberately or accidentally making it difficult or unpleasant to park because it’s a service they really don’t want to provide. They may actually make more money on the violations than they do on the parking fees.

The demise of the Fixed smartphone app offered in San Francisco and Los Angeles last year was an excellent case in point. According to press reports the app, which helped drivers who felt they received tickets in error to get those tickets revoked, was driven out of business by the service provider: Xerox. Xerox and the city of San Francisco initially turned off the fax machine – required for filing appeals – and then finally refused to allow Fixed to access city Websites, thereby killing the app.

http://tinyurl.com/nboa47q – San Francisco & L.A. Block App That Helped Drivers Dispute Parking Tickets “Parking ticket fines account for 15% of the SFMTA [San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency] operating budget,” Fixed founder David Hegarty told TechCrunch, “and it looks like they objected to us providing some accountability to their process.”

What Xerox did to Fixed really sticks in my craw. Rather than partnering with or even acquiring Fixed – what a concept! – they chose instead to put them out of business. One needs no more validation than that to appreciate the fact that Xerox is hostile to competing technology solution providers and the app community as a whole.

That’s some nasty behavior that no one should duplicate. 😉

But that behavior reflects the valuable space occupied by parking and parking-related apps. Big bucks are at stake and app developers should be prepared for or possess sharp elbows.

SpotAngel now arrives with a tool to make sense of conflicting parking regulations, let you know if your parking space is legal (for the time of day etc. based on updated regulation information and crowd-sourced and checked edits) and notify you when it may no longer be legal. SpotAngel is the ideal antidote to the nagging question: “Is it okay to park here?”

The arrival of SpotAngel is just another indication of the rich app development opportunity posed by parking. Anagog out of Israel is another unique on-street parking solution looking to leverage crowd-sourced parking data to identify free or available legal parking spaces.

I really don’t see myself reserving parking spaces any time soon. When I see my local city (Washington, DC) installing dozens of additional speed and red light cameras and jacking up fines I take the hint and leave my car at home. But for those intrepid drivers determined to find a legal parking spot on the street here’s hoping that SpotAngel comes to a city near you sometime soon. Just watch out for Xerox.

More articles from Roger…

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