There are very few systems that can’t be made more efficient by being rigged with more sensors, it seems. The latest aspect of modern life to get smart: parking. The Rocky Mountain Institute draws attention to upgrades on the horizon for this problem familiar to car-owning city-dwellers and urban planners alike:
Searching for a parking space is a routine (and often frustrating) activity for many people in cities around the world. This search burns about one million barrels of the world’s oil every day. There are also four parking spaces per vehicle in the United States, and most streets are empty most of the time, leading to urban environments that ironically do far more to accommodate vehicles than people. As the global population continues to urbanize, without a well-planned, convenience-driven retreat from the car these problems will worsen.Smart parking is the first step in the right direction. It involves using low-cost sensors, real-time data collection, and mobile-phone-enabled automated payment systems that allow people to reserve parking in advance or very accurately predict where they will likely find a spot. When deployed as a system, smart parking thus reduces car emissions in urban centers by reducing the need for people to needlessly circle city blocks searching for parking. It also permits cities to carefully manage their parking supply.
Pilot programs are underway in cities around the world, and users of bike-share programs will be familiar with the ease of mind and convenience that real-time data affords. Smart parking systems will also save parkers money and cut down urban emissions. And as the RMI points out, they’ll also allow urban planners to reclaim space previously allocated for parking.Forget the Keystone obstructionism; this is the kind of policy greens ought to be rallying around. It can reduce our collective environmental impact while making people’s lives easier and our cities more livable.[Parking lot image courtesy of Shutterstock]