Technology is the answer, but a culture change must come first.
Our industry stands at a critical juncture. One path urges us to maintain the status quo, preserving the current state and staying in a familiar, secure zone, albeit one not geared towards adapting for the future needs of parking, transportation, and mobility. Conversely, the other path encourages us to welcome technology and transformation, ensuring readiness for a future that caters to the needs of all communities.
There are numerous aspects and stakeholders within our industry grappling with this decisive crossroad. However, one facet significantly influences the trajectory of our future and regrettably seems to be focused on the rearview mirror —the realm of consulting.
Cities spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on studies every year
Conventional parking studies often take 6-12 months, if not longer
Obsolete data = flawed or ineffective decision making
The traditional parking study
The pursuit of efficient planning and parking management has faced persistent obstacles due to the limitations of conventional parking studies. While historically significant, these approaches have become obsolete and ineffective, unable to adapt to the ever-changing requirements of modern parking, transportation, and mobility dynamics.
One of the most glaring shortcomings of traditional parking studies is their sluggish pace. These studies generally involve time-consuming processes, often spanning months or even years. The arduous task of manually collecting data through surveys, physical counts, and observation methods contributes to this snail-paced approach. By the time the results are obtained and analyzed, the landscape has already undergone significant transformations, rendering the data obsolete before it can even be put to use.
Moreover, the financial burden associated with these conventional studies is substantial. The costs involved in employing personnel, conducting surveys, and compiling (often redundant) reports accumulate rapidly. Budgets allocated to these studies often exceed expectations, creating a strain on resources that could otherwise be invested in more agile and responsive solutions.
Depending on the study's scale, certain cities have paid substantial amounts—hundreds of thousands of dollars—to acquire meticulously crafted reports that essentially reiterate information they already possessed.
It's time to break free
How can we break free from this perpetual cycle of flawed data in parking studies? It starts with redefining how decisions are formed from the outset. Embracing technology should serve as a catalyst for informed decision-making, rather than allowing outdated practices to dictate our choices.
You might be pondering, "Nick, it sounds like you're aiming to eliminate consultant practices." But my response is quite the opposite. I firmly believe that consultants should be at the forefront of embracing technology meant to streamline processes, saving time, money, and hassle for our clients. That's essentially what most of our clients enlist us for in the first place. Employing this technology and real-time datasets enables us, as consultants, to leverage this data and create reports as required. It allows us to assist in steering and guiding our clients' progress, fostering well-informed, forward-looking decisions. We call this Guardrail Consulting. Read more about Athena Guardrail Consulting here.
Technology solutions can supplement and often replace traditional consulting methods
We need to recognize the presence of technological solutions that inherently offer swift, dependable, and authentic data—filling the gap in traditional parking studies. These technological solutions not only offer speed and consistency but also heightened accuracy and reliability, often at a fraction of the cost of a consultant’s approach.
Gathering the data with mapping and asset inventory
Integrating asset inventory management enhances the adaptability and responsiveness of urban planning. By incorporating detailed asset data into real-time visualizations, planners can gain a comprehensive view of not just parking landscapes but also the infrastructure components within them—ranging from parking meters and signage to lighting and pavement conditions.
Unlike traditional Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which often dealt with static or batch-updated data, new mapping technologies leverage updatable (sometimes real-time) data streams. This agile-data infusion can enable instant updates, providing a dynamic and current view of the environment, a consultant’s dream!
A new way to aggregate from multiple data sources
Automated data aggregation stands as the linchpin for unlocking the potential of delivering real-time parking studies in the future. This seamless integration encompasses a wide array of data sources, such as License Plate Recognition (LPR), parking meters, mobile payments, Parking Access Revenue Control (PARC) Systems, and various sensor networks, opening doors to a fresh and comprehensive understanding of the environment.
While data aggregation isn't new in parking, its ability to seamlessly collect unbiased data from diverse hardware and software sources, at little-to-no additional cost, presents an unparalleled value proposition. This proposition shouldn't merely catch the attention of stakeholders but even more so of consultants, as it holds significant importance for the future of our industry.
Automated data occupancy at your fingertips
At the core of this parking revolution are data occupancy tools, offering planners a real-time view of parking space usage. They offer an uninterrupted stream of data, enabling decision-makers to swiftly respond to current parking scenarios. Consultants can harness this active data to generate groundbreaking reports. Simultaneously, parking administration can now disseminate this data through graphical interfaces, ensuring stakeholders remain constantly informed round the clock.
These tools do not simply offer a glimpse; they keep decision-makers updated in real-time, allowing them to be proactive in meeting changing parking needs. It's a departure from the old way of periodic studies, offering a constant view of how parking is being used and helping make smarter, quicker decisions about resource allocation - and so much more.
Wayfinding is a huge plus for communities
While not essential to a study, an integrated, data-driven environment offers a remarkable benefit: improved wayfinding. Mapping technologies in this setting go beyond managing infrastructure to enhance navigation for residents and visitors. By integrating robust wayfinding systems into real-time visualizations, we can simplify navigation across any locale. Wayfinding combines signage, digital maps, and navigation aids to efficiently guide individuals from point A to point B, optimizing routes using up-to-date data.
AI and machine learning
Emerging technologies are beginning to incorporate AI and machine learning algorithms to analyze vast amounts of spatial data efficiently. These intelligent systems can derive insights, detect patterns, and predict trends, transforming how we plan and respond to changes in urban landscapes.
The future of AI is about being ahead of the game. Imagine a world where parking needs just sort themselves out in real-time. No waiting around for spaces to open up—the demand calls the shots, and the supply adjusts on the fly. It's like having a system that's always one step ahead, making parking smoother and more responsive to what's happening right now.
The lower cost and burden for stakeholders
When considering a technology-driven approach for a parking study, concerns often revolve around the expenses and efficiency of the chosen technology. As consultants, it's our responsibility to guide decision-makers through these apprehensions. We achieve this by presenting practical instances and tailored cost analyses that cater to the stakeholders' exact requirements.
These tech solutions often get up and running in just a few weeks, kicking off at a cost in the tens of thousands. That's quite a contrast to the hundreds of thousands you'd normally spend on a traditional study.
Implementing technology-forward solutions for parking studies not only addresses immediate concerns about costs and effectiveness but also unlocks numerous long-term advantages. These solutions often streamline operations, enhance data accuracy, and offer scalability for future needs. By illustrating success stories from similar implementations, decision-makers gain insight into the transformative impact these technologies can have. Moreover, the initial investment pales in comparison to the potential savings and efficiencies gained over time, making it a strategic and cost-effective choice in the long run.
Bringing the Future of Decision-Making with Athena and our Partners
Athena is all in on this cultural and technological shift. Teaming up with our flagship technology partners Modii and Parking Logix, we're set to revolutionize how parking studies happen and how they're put into action. It's not a future that sidelines the expertise of industry consultants; instead, it's one where these consultants dive into a future that's all about delivering modern, timely, convenient, and cost-effective solutions. We're embracing a shift that's about making things better for everyone involved. Even more crucially, for the communities counting on all of us for a brighter tomorrow.
Embracing these technological advancements isn't just an upgrade; it's a strategic move towards ensuring that planning and parking studies remain relevant, adaptive, and effective in the face of constant urban evolution. The ability to harness real-time data dynamics and dynamic visualizations is fundamental in creating spaces that are not only functional but also responsive to the ever-evolving needs of their inhabitants. Ultimately, it's a step towards crafting a smarter, more resilient, and future-ready world.
Modii is an infra-tech company that develops smart parking and mobility solutions to provide cities universities and airports with unified digital parking infrastructure for improved decision making and customer experience. More at www.modii.co
About Parking Logix
Parking Logix is a privately held company headquartered in Montreal, Canada, with sales offices in the United States, Mexico, and India. It manufactures easy-to-install, wireless, plug-n-play, intuitive and affordable cloud-based solutions, primarily in off-street environments, providing the highest industry accuracy in occupancy data. The data is available in real-time, and the system can be solar-power based, avoiding the excessive costs associated with grid-powered solutions.
Parking Logix is a wholly owned subsidiary of Logix ITS. Logix ITS is a leader in real-time data capture through various sensor-based technologies utilizing edge computing and AI. It provides its customer base with real-time information based on its proprietary cloud-based solutions and has the largest population of connected devices in the traffic safety and intelligent transportation industry. more at parkinglogix.com
About Athena Partners Strategy Group
Leveraging a specialized network of partners, APSG is a governmental relations and technology consultancy guiding organizations in developing new business and launching solutions across parking, transportation, curb management, rideshare, law enforcement, public safety and sustainability sectors. More at athenapsg.com
About Nick Stanton
Nick has held sales management and business development executive positions with industry leading companies serving government, education, and commercial markets for more than fifteen years. His experience includes products and services in the parking enforcement, LPR technology, mobility, EV, and curb management. He has gained a strong following among customers and vendors as a result of his no-nonsense, results oriented, approach to business and his focus on building trust by “telling it how it is”. You will find dealing with Nick a refreshingly straightforward experience.
Written by Nick Stanton, Managing Partner, Athena Partners Strategy Group firstname.lastname@example.org