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Smart Parking: Beware of the Unintended Consequences

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Alan Reiter
Alan Reiter  
5/14/2014 3:25:43 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: unintended consequences
Hi Kim,

Congestion pricing has been implemented in only a few cities, and although it might be appropriate for New York, I'd hate to be in the middle of the fight for it! I can hear the arguments now about how congestion pricing will destroy business as well as favor the wealthy and harm the poor because they won't be able to afford or have a difficult time affording the extra costs.

As I just wrote to Terry (in my latest blog), I rode my bicycle in New York, but it was mostly in residential areas and it was a much different time when I was young. I'd be very hesitant to ride a bike in Manhattan -- too dangerous.

I do walk or take public transportation almost everywhere, but I have two bicycles and promote the concept of biking. But biking in a city like New York can be so dangerous that bike lanes must be separated from traffic, and that generates a tremendous amount of anger from drivers and their lobbyists.

This is how cities should set transportation priorities. Hope springs eternal.

Kim Davis
Kim Davis  
5/12/2014 12:44:12 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: unintended consequences
Yes, I'm a big fan of congestion pricing. Let's get people who don't have to use their own vehicles onto public transit.  I'm not, however, a big fan of bikes. Get off and walk. Maybe it's the way people ride them here.

Alan Reiter
Alan Reiter  
5/8/2014 6:31:45 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: unintended consequences
Hi Susan,

Yes, it would be fun -- and instructive to others -- to see those concrete statues! Monuments to conservative thinking.

The price of freedom -- and pro-pedestrian/bicycle policies -- is eternal vigilance. Politicians are like roaches, impossible to completely remove and always causing problems.

Alan Reiter
Alan Reiter  
5/8/2014 6:26:37 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: Tricky business
Hi Toby,

Thanks very much for the info. about the U.K. I don't like specialized prepaid cards because it's one more single-purpose item to carry, although I have a few pieces of plastic with barcodes on my keychain for loyalty clubs and libriaries.

The all-in-one card for multiple city services is better than single-purpose cards, but I suspect they are inferior to just using credit/debit cards. I guess there's a certainly security aspect to prepaid cards and they are useful for people who don't have any or many credit/cards or even a smartphone.

I prefer cellular phone payments or credit/debit cards because I'm always carrying those. (I hate driving, so I'm not likely to use these methods in any case!)

Susan Leach
Susan Leach  
5/7/2014 8:41:38 AM
User Rank Blogger
Re: unintended consequences
@Alan, haha, that's quite a compelling image!

Actually, Barcelona maybe softening its "pro-pedestrian-public-transport" approach because of politics (an environmental lawyer here made a recent comment to that effect). So they're not immune here, either. 

Toby
Toby  
5/7/2014 6:46:40 AM
User Rank Urban Legend
Re: Tricky business
@Alan: The London area is split into 32 boroughs, each one with it's own local policies regarding parking and pricing but all largely in compliance with guidelines set down by Westminster. Most all meters can be paid using a service called Ringo with is SMS based and this has been around for a while. Many meters also accept pre-paid cards where there is a balance stored, this is popular. More recently credit cards are also accepted and in some boroughs there is a new all-in-one smart card that can be used for parking, libraries, leisure centers etc. This last is a compicated thing to introduce and has many unexpected consequences of it' s own. I look forward to your next blog!

Alan Reiter
Alan Reiter  
5/6/2014 2:23:34 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: Tricky business
Hi Toby,

I suspect cities in the U.S. will raise ticket prices if they are experiencing a significant decrease in revenues. But if they raise the prices too much, there could be a major backlash, although I'm not sure what residents could do. Storm the mayor's office and department of motor vehicles?!

I'm not sure how many parking meter companies exist in the U.S., but there is a definite trend towards installing meters that can accept credit cards and, recently, that can accept payment via phones. How is the situation in the U.K.?

I haven't read anything about residents complaining about the different payment methods. Most people like it, I assume, especially being reminded on their phone when the meter will expire.

But as I noted, if it's easier to pay for meters before they expire and easier to fight tickets using smartphone apps, cities will lose revenues... unless they raise prices! And while Kim and others have mentioned in these comments that it's kind of silly to complain about more people obeying the law (adding to meters and paying fines or getting them dismissed), the fact remains that cities could see a loss of revenues.

Lots of unintended consequences to come as part of the evolution of the Internet of Things. (I've got another Future Cities blog coming up about pedestrian/vehicle dynamics and I'm working on a blog about traffic security. Hint: ever see "Live Free or Die Hard"?)

Toby
Toby  
5/6/2014 7:18:43 AM
User Rank Urban Legend
Tricky business
@Alan: interesting article. I worked for a local council in London a while ago and the project was to introduce new smarter meters and cards. it seems that most parking systems, in the UK at least, are run by one or two large companies who are very slow to evolve and whose technology focus is not that intense. Parking revenues are a two edged sword for the councils anyway. More revenues means more complaints and less money from Westminster, less revenue means complaints also but more money from westminster...it is all swings and roundabouts.

Alan Reiter
Alan Reiter  
5/5/2014 10:02:15 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: unintended consequences
Hi Susan,

As I commented to Kim, many cities count on parking ticket revenues and they must find new ways to make up the shortfall if smart technology and apps decrease them. A decrease in parking meter fines could result in hiring fewer "parking enforcement officers," but that isn't likely to significantly increase city revenues.

I understand the value of decreasing the number of parking violations; it's a good thing. Cities will raise prices for tickets. 

Many more people in the U.S. are killed and injured by vehicles than guns. If we consider vehicles as lethal weapons and restrict their use to relatively few people who are subject to in-depth background checks, it would help reclaim our cities for pedestrians, not to mention the many benefits.

Alan Reiter
Alan Reiter  
5/5/2014 9:42:22 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: unintended consequences
Hi Susan,

That's really great about Barcelona. You and Pablo have been doing a great job discussing Barcelona's smart city initiatives.

I'd love to see U.S. cities begin aggressively paving over roads in favor of pedestrian walkways and bicycle (not motorcycle) paths. The cement/asphalt/concrete trucks could pave right over all the screaming lobbyists for the American Automobile Association, car manufacturers, gasoline station owners, and their bought-and-paid-for politicians. They could be "lifelike" statues displayed for the enjoyment of walkers and bikers! 

As for the increased traffic congestion, well boo-hoo! Still, that only will work if Barcelona continuously improves the scope and efficiency of pedestrian/bike paths.

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