HomeSmart Cities solutionsRegulated parking and the challenge of controlling the correct use of it

Regulated parking and the challenge of controlling the correct use of it

Every day we face the problem of finding convenient parking spots central to our end destination. The increasing population density and number of vehicles in big cities makes it increasingly difficult to find free sites as well as generates constant traffic jams. These issues lead to an increase in air pollution throughout the cities and consequently a rise in discomfort among citizens. Although specific regulated parking places have been created for disabilities, residents, and load/unload, these regulations are not always followed and respected by inhabitants.

Even though municipalities have created regulated parking areas, the problem requires new solutions. Fortunately, new technologies have been created to address these issues. The internet of things applied to cities now makes it possible to control who parked in each spot, and whether or not they meet the stipulated times and areas, ultimately saving the citizens time and the cities money.

The proposals of Municipalities: Are they effective?

Municipalities have made public parking issues an important part of the mobility policy in cities. Some of the actions that are usually developed for urban centers include: defining authorized areas and maximum parking time in each sector, reserving places for the disabled, loading and unloading areas, adjusting the service prices, and encouraging more public transport usage.

In recent decades, governments have implemented various measures to alleviate the problem of traffic, lack of parking places, and pollution. Here are some examples:

  • In Athens, car traffic was restricted to a central area in 1982;
  • Stockholm was also one of the first cities to establish a limited traffic zone in 1996;
  • Since 2008, Germany has required drivers to have an environmental license plate to acquire access to green areas in the cities;
  • Italy has restricted access to ancient centers of major cities during business hours.

These solutions were combined with parking control mechanisms to not only achieve a reduction in the flow of vehicles in the busiest areas of cities, but also to assure that the vehicles entering are able to park.


New problems, new solutions

Despite these advances, new problems have emerged: if parking areas are to be used correctly, effective communication is imperative. The user should know where to park, how long they can stay, where and how to pay. Additionally, there is the issue concerning the way in which the council can know and control if the parking places are being used appropriately.

In many instances, a driver will park on a site reserved for the disabled and will not realize it, or a tourist will park there because they are not aware of the rules of parking areas reserved for residents. Fraud is another major drawback for municipalities. Cases in which users can break the rules and not pay for the parking time are very difficult to control by a traffic officer or other precarious systems, opening the door to  fraudulent mindsets.

The internet of things applied to smart cities generate possible solutions to alleviate these problems. The sensors that detect in real time the occupancy of parking spaces and then translate that data into information for citizens and the administration to utilize is a prime example of this system. This information is then integrated with the customer’s payment information, policy, and specific uses, making it possible to recognize when the stipulated rules are being followed and when they are violated. Cities like Santa Barbara D’Oeste in Brazil or Nice already use this technology. As a result, these cities have managed to optimize their management which in turn caused an increase in the correct use of the regulated parking and mobility throughout each city. Other cases like Madrid or London apply different measures with the same objective: to improve the quality of life of citizens. Let’s see how they have done this.

Santa Bárbara D’Oeste (Brasil): sensors that control the use of each spot

This city needed a solution that would simplify the parking control by efficiently managing drivers and improving the accessibility of parking areas for vehicles. As a result, we have implemented a system that can be applied to any intelligent city project. Developed by Urbiotica, this system involves the deployment of sensors in parking spaces that capture real-time data about the occupation.

The system applied in Santa Bárbara d’Oeste allows real-time control over the payment status and use of each spot and generates violation alerts to the systems managers in real time. As a result, time and resource management are optimized.

The challenge of Madrid: pollution control

Over 2 million vehicles circulate in Madrid every day. As a result, pollution and congestion have become the costliest consequences for citizens in terms of environmental health and competitiveness.

To remedy this situation, especially in the aspect of reducing pollution, the street parking is limited at certain times in the most central districts of the city. In recent months’ prices have been adjusted according to the zones in order to regulate the environmental pollution, which has surpassed the recommended parameters.

As a solution to the traffic congestion due to citizens searching for parking, The Municipal Transport Company of Madrid (EMT) has developed the ‘Parking Madrid’ application that allows citizens access to the data of 58 publicparking lots in the capital. The application allows citizens to have access to real-time parking data and permits the administration to have control over the use of spaces. This app has also been implemented in the municipality of Pozuelo. By using sensors that control the use of each of the parking lots, the system has reduced traffic congestions and CO2 emissions by 35% in this area.

London: cameras that recognize cars license plates 

Like Athens and Stockholm, London implements a congestion charge in order to deal with traffic congestion in the city center. A congestion charge includes a fee charged for motor vehicles operating within the Zone Toll or Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) surrounded by the London Inner Ring Road in the city center, from Monday to Friday between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The collection is mainly based on license plate recognition. Motorcycles and electric cars do not have to pay the tax, or may request a discount. Disabled drivers are also exempt but must apply in advance.

Yet, how does the city of London manage to control the payment of this tax? As of October 2014 London used a Car Tax Disc that was attached to the glass of the car to check that the tax had been paid. Now, the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) has a digital record of payments via license plate recognition cameras that are used to track and identify vehicles that are not taxed or haven’t paid current payments.

To access, the London city you must pay a tax. The objective? deter drivers from entering the city by car and further promote the use of public transport avoiding congestion and pollution.

Nice believes the sensing system will prevent fraud and congestion

In order to reduce the flow of vehicles arriving in the city center, prevent cases of evasion of payment, and encourage the use of alternative transportation, the Administration of Nice chose to place sensors to detect in real time the occupation of the parking spaces through an app.

The purpose of this system was to enable the Administration and city managers to implement dynamic pricing depending on the availability, control the traffic flow, and even regulate existing pollution indices at all times. This project implemented with Urbiotica’s sensors allows users to check, through the same app, all of the information listed above via the internet or smartphones. This facilitates the search for parking and helps the user decide on the best way to get around the city.

These particular cases demonstrate how new technologies can reverse everyday problems such as traffic congestion generated simply by the search for parking, the control of regulated parking areas, and environmental pollution. Thanks to the internet of things applied to Smart Cities, towns and cities today are qualified to resolve these conflicts and thus improve the quality of life of their citizens.

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