How new tech is set to reduce the huge cost of traffic congestion in the UK
By Dan Hubert, Founder and CEO of AppyWay
The process of trying to park on the streets – driving around looking for a space, watching for wardens, and trying to meet a deadline, all with a stream of traffic right behind you – isn’t exactly one of life’s pleasures. Yet, a different, smarter, tech-enabled approach is possible and gaining ground in the UK and globally. It is set to help deliver smarter cities, cleaner inner-city environments and healthier urban economies too.
Drivers in the UK waste an average of four days a year (91 hours) looking for a parking space and their parking fines come to around £1.2 billion a year. The current approach to parking also contributes significantly to congestion and emissions in cities. And the overall loss to the UK economy is about £26 billion a year when you add up all the fines, missed revenue opportunities, the cost of congestion and delays, the environmental impact, opportunity costs, and other societal costs.
Digitising the process is the key
So what exactly is this new approach? It’s digitised parking solutions. Excitingly, it is now possible to digitise the entire process of finding and securing parking spaces in the most seamless, efficient way. In fact, the technology is available to deliver effective utilisation of parking space, integrate payments and implement local traffic regulations. And by digitising on and off-street parking assets, drivers can access information on parking space availability and enjoy frictionless ‘one-click’ payments.
That is because today’s digitised parking utilises IoT technology, which enables smart parking sensors to provide absolute certainty on parking time, location, payments and other related interactions. Meanwhile, the cars themselves are increasingly becoming part of the traffic management infrastructure, using connected car data to help sense parking space availability.
This digitised approach to traffic management can bring significant benefits to road users. But for local authorities, there are benefits too. In the UK, the 418 councils spend around £1 billion a year operating parking services, while the cost of managing kerb regulation runs to only about £126 million a year.
Councils are therefore missing out on fair, effective and efficient revenue generation, along with the opportunity to reduce congestion and air pollution. And at a time of reduced revenues due to coronavirus and already tight budgets, this smart approach to traffic management presents councils with a real opportunity to optimise parking solutions. It is a seamless process that generates revenues thanks to increased dwell time by consumers and more efficient business use of parking.
Harrogate leads by example
Take Harrogate Borough Council. It faced typical challenges that many towns around the UK do – traffic congestion, concerns over air quality, reduction in central government funding and parking challenges in the town centre – but decided to take action through technology. In collaboration with North Yorkshire County Council, Harrogate implemented AppyWay’s Smart City Parking Solution. As the name suggests, this is specifically designed to best serve those needing to park whilst providing a kerbside management tool for local authorities to better manage and optimise space.
The Smart City Parking Solution was launched in January 2019 and involved the installation of 2,156 smart sensors and the consolidation of digitised parking data, parking sensors, parking payments, automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and linear pricing into a single solution for the two authorities. This enabled a totally seamless experience for users of the mobile app developed by AppyWay.
The new solution allowed users to find on-street or off-street parking with real-time availability and then start paying for parking sessions that end automatically when they drive away with a single click – One Click Parking™. Also established was an entirely frictionless experience for drivers when passing through ANPR barriers in car parks. Meanwhile, the local authorities can see how their assets are consumed using a web-hosted analytics platform.
Feedback from consumers in Harrogate was very positive. Of those surveyed, 56% said they saved time parking, while 62% said they stayed longer in Harrogate as a result of not worrying about their parking ticket expiring.
Fleet operators benefit too
But while the benefits to private car drivers and local councils are clear, the system has real advantages for fleet operators too. In London, for example, Pimlico Plumbers were wasting between 20-30 minutes each time they needed a parking space and would receive 4-5 parking tickets a day due to lack of availability. They also had to guess the length of time required for a job, sometimes paying for 4-5 hours when the job only took one hour. This meant wasted time, stress and unnecessary cost.
To address this, AppyWay provided its “One Click Parking” solution to Pimlico Plumbers. Using a combination of M2M dongles and a mobile app, fleet drivers were able to find available spaces quickly and easily, start a parking session with one click and only paying for the minutes parked.
Road ahead is clear
The good news is that the above examples are not one offs, but very much the direction of travel for the whole country. That’s because such standardised and interoperable parking data forms part of the UK Government’s ‘Future of Mobility: Urban Strategy.’ Key priorities in the strategy – tackling air pollution, congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution – are all supported by the parking management solution.
Ultimately, the result of such tech-driven parking solutions is to ease stress, save drivers’ time and make city centres more pleasant, all while helping local councils find huge efficiencies in their traffic management programs. And what’s not to like in that?