Cities are providing drivers a smart way to park

Parking your vehicle in a congested part of town can be just as stressful as the drive to get there. Of course there is the thrill of driving behind a pedestrian who has bags in hand and is heading towards their vehicle to leave. Disappointment sets in as they unload their bags, but don’t leave or forget where they parked and leave you behind on parking deck Z. There is also the stress of getting to the parking meter before it expires or wishing you hadn’t fed the machine such a large quantity of coins. Parallel parking, getting blocked in a space, loading and unloading zones, private parking only… the ordeals of parking are just as long as the lots that are full. But, technology is changing the way we park.

Testing is taking place for Cyber Valet Services, which allows vehicles equipped with special programming to park without a driver on board in connected car parks. The driver exits the vehicle at the car park entrance and activates the automatic parking system using a smartphone to park itself and returning when the driver is ready to leave. Car parks using this technology are equipped with Wi-Fi, video sensors and artificial intelligence-based solutions.

In Georgia, the city of Atlanta’s ATLPlus app allows drivers to pay by phone and extend parking time without having to return to their vehicle or to a meter. The app will also alert drivers when they have 15 minutes on their parking time. Customers can also notify a rapid response team if they spot a broken meter. This team is expected to fix the meter within 24 hours.

In Maryland, the city of Wheaton is also installing smart meters that allow drivers to use coins, credit cards or they can pay through their cell phone. The old meter poles will remain, but the inner workings of them will be updated with the new technology. Law enforcement have access to the meters and can tell if they are expired or in use. All of the meters are solar powered.

In Texas, the San Antonio Airport is using a parking guidance system which uses license place recognition technology and directional signage to help guide drivers to the nearest available space. The signage displays real-time parking availability throughout the entire facility of over 1,200 spaces. The parking technology also provides surveillance cameras which captures streaming video whenever motion is detected in or around a space.

A program called Trucker Path was launched in 2015 to help truckers locate parking in their vicinity. The free service is constantly updated and verified by a community of truckers to ensure its accuracy. It provides drivers a trip planner with detailed information about truck-friendly points-of-interest along the way including hotels, weigh stations, truck stops, truck washes, restaurants and rest areas.

The smart-meter trend is growing and there are several cities throughout the United States requesting information and proposals to update their parking experience for drivers. In New York, the city of Rochelle is seeking to update and modernize its 750 on-street meters to accommodate smart growth and planning for the city. The selected vendor will be required to sign a service agreement for a term of three years with an option to renew for two additional three-year terms. The request for proposals is due by Aug. 3.

In Florida, the city of Delray Beach is looking to eliminate free street-side parking downtown, including the parking garages, by adding smart parking meters to its 3,000 plus parking spaces. The meters would change cost per hour depending on demand, similar to surge pricing. The plan will require the city to hire additional personnel to enforce the meters and city commissioners want to look at cost estimates and revenue projections before approving the meters. Currently, the parking garages charge a $5 flat fee after 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and other parking spots downtown are free 8-hour or 2-hour parking.

In Louisiana, the city of Lafayette is experimenting with smart meters and would like to phase out the city’s 630 coin-operated meters. The smart meters could accept credit cards, sense if a vehicle is in a parking spot, update parking rates and allow drivers to sign up for a payment system through their cell phone.  City council members plan to vote on July 11 whether to move forward with the meter installation and begin charging drivers through dynamic pricing or demand-responsive pricing. The proposed changes would also allow the city to set aside certain parking spaces for electric vehicles and offer vehicle charging services at those sites.

In South Carolina, the city of Charleston approved a budget for smart parking meters after reviewing a parking study that was completed in the fall. Each meter is expected to cost between $800 and $900. The budget will also be used to establish parking on the first floor of parking garages and new signs.

With increasing adoption of these efficient real-time parking systems the demand is expected to increase at airports, hospitals, shopping malls, commercial parking garages, universities and other event avenues. The strong integration of the real-time parking system, Internet of Things and cloud data is opening new avenues for the users and manufacturers.

If you are looking for a different way to pay for parking, a company called TravelCar will let you park for free, but you have to be willing to let someone else borrow your car. The Paris-based car sharing service turns parked cars into cash for their owners, offers free airport parking and helps travelers earn money by renting out their car to other travelers while they are away.  If you agree to let your car be rented by other travelers while you’re traveling, you get free airport parking. Your car is protected with $1 million in liability insurance and is covered against theft and physical damage. You also get paid for every mile that’s driven. If your car is not rented, you still get free parking.

From a renter’s perspective, you get access to a private car rather than paying the cost of renting from traditional rental car companies. If you’d rather not share your car, you can still park with TravelCar and receive the lowest airport parking rates guaranteed. TravelCar launched its U.S. operations on June 14 with an office in Los Angeles. Founded in 2012 and based in Paris, TravelCar is currently operating in 30 countries in 200 locations. They are slated to open at a San Francisco location in July, followed by eight additional U.S. markets this year.

Congress approves $1.1 trillion spending bill for transportation

Congress passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that included funding for Amtrak, rail and transit programs and $500 million for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. The bill allows state departments of transportation and transit agencies access to this year’s funding increases that Congress had approved and set aside money for in the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. That means about $400 million is available for transit programs and $1 billion is available for highway programs.
The bill also increases funding for the Federal Railroad Administration by $173 million to $1.85 billion. The bill also includes $98 million in rail grants to support positive train control implementation, make railroad infrastructure improvements and improve passenger-rail service. An additional $328 million will be given to Amtrak for the Northeast Corridor and $1.17 billion for its national network. The bill also allocates $258 million for rail safety and research programs. The Federal Transit Administration will receive $12.4 billion, $9.7 billion of which will be for transit formula grants from the Highway Trust Fund. The measure provides $2.4 billion for Capital Investment Grants known as “New Starts,” which funds all current Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) transit projects and provides support for new projects anticipated to receive FFGA awards.
The spending generally presents good opportunities for the railroad industry according to the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association. Not only are current transit projects receiving funding with existing FFGAs, future projects across the nation could receive funding if new FFGAs are signed. Possible funding includes $125 million for the Maryland Purple Line, $100 million for Caltrain electrification, $100 million for Seattle’s Lynnwood Link, $84 million for New York City Transit’s Canarsie power improvements, $50 million for the Santa Ana streetcar program, $49 million for the Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s core capacity project and $10 million for the Minneapolis Southwest light rail transit project.
The legislation also sets aside $408 million for 10 “small start” projects such as streetcar projects in Tempe, Sacramento, Fort Lauderdale, and Seattle. Also in the bill is $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, and $199 million for positive train control funding for commuter railroads that was authorized under the FAST Act.

States investing in real-time traffic data

In February the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released new data showing that Americans are driving more than ever before. In 2016, drivers in cars, trucks, minivans and SUVs put a record 3.22 trillion miles on the nation’s roads, up 2.8 percent from 3.1 trillion miles in 2015.

The data also shows that it’s the fifth consecutive year of increased miles driven on roads and highways which underscores the demands facing American’s roads and bridges and reaffirms calls for greater investment in surface transportation infrastructure.

It also means drivers are more aware of the roads they travel each day. There is that road that must be avoided at certain times of the day due to high traffic congestion. We all have our special back-road shortcuts, which have become few and far between these days, that we take when traffic is at a standstill. Before the internet and mobile phones, we relied only on television, newspapers, radios, traffic helicopters and even CB radios to warn us of construction, accidents and congestion on the roads. If your car broke down, you thumbed a ride or walked to the nearest pay phone, unless the road had one of those convenient, emergency call box phones on the roadway.
These sources are still very reliable, but once mobile devices and the internet came into existence, the updates became instantaneous as we refreshed our web browsers. The department of transportation in most states seems to have taken notice to this resource and partnered with other businesses to get their websites up-to-date.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation announced in January that they were partnering with the popular crowd-sourcing traffic navigation mobile app Waze. The Wisconsin DOT will verify and then post real-time traffic data such as construction, crashes and road closures throughout the state using the Waze website and app. Wisconsin DOT plans to incorporate Waze’s data into the 511 Wisconsin website redesign this spring. The change will give drivers faster updates, personalized camera feeds and better knowledge of road conditions.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation (CT DOT) launched a new website last month called the CT Travel Smart. CT DOT spent $150,000 upgrading the website and the federal government funded 80 percent of the bill. Drivers can personalize their travel details, can view the entire state or just a region or they can sign up online and create certain routes and save individual cameras to their profile. They can also receive personalized alert messages about their saved routes or certain roads. The state has 350 traffic cameras running 24-hours a day.

If potholes seem to be a common problem on your route, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is currently updating its online database so all roads in Boston will have lookouts for potholes. The program was piloted in a couple of cities and will expand its service to the rest of the state over the next few months. During the pilot program, a total of 520 potholes were repaired on I-90 and between Springfield and Weston. Drivers can report a pothole by calling a hotline or filling out a form online.

If it isn’t potholes you want to avoid, maybe it is a slick film of ice that has you anxious. New technology was recently added to the Michigan Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) website which allows drivers to track snowplows working around the Upper Peninsula in real time. Drivers can click on active plows and see exactly what they are doing and whether it is plowing or applying salt. The technology currently only tracks MDOT plows and not county road commission or private plows.

Transportation agencies aren’t the only ones keeping their residents in the know. City officials in West Palm Beach, Fla. teamed up with a consulting firm to study the city’s transportation for the future. The study will include downtown, the Okeechobee Boulevard corridor, parking management and transportation demand.

The consulting team will have a website, WPBmobility.com, that will go live in a few days with updates on the studies and an interactive map for the public to help identify where there are problems or opportunities for transportation changes. This comes at a time when the city is developing a citywide bicycle master plan and making downtown more livable.

But what happens when it is your vehicle that is causing the traffic jam? The Illinois Tollway has launched a beta form of tracking program for users to locate Highway Emergency Lane Patrol (HELP) trucks. The HELP Truck Tracker, which is available on the tollway’s website, shows trucks marked on the website with arrows identifying the direction of travel with a popup text box reporting the nearest mile marker. The HELP program sent out 12 trucks to patrol the Tollway system in 12 counties from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. The trucks assisted more than 30,000 customers while patrolling more than 1.2 million miles last year.

Feds award assistance for transit oriented developments

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced the cities of Birmingham, Charlotte, Albuquerque, Omaha and Tacoma will receive support in planning development near transit systems as part of its Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Technical Assistance Initiative. The initiative supports efforts to create mixed-use, walkable communities near transit with a focus on economically disadvantaged populations.

“The Department of Transportation places a high priority on investing in transportation projects that improve the prosperity of low- and moderate-income communities and stimulate economic development in areas that need it,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We are pleased to provide this technical assistance to help local leaders create practical, equitable, community-sensitive development plans.”

The five communities will receive in-depth, long-term technical assistance as they plan TOD strategies. FTA will work with the nonprofit Smart Growth America to provide a variety of planning and analysis tools tailored to the needs of each community.

Alabama’s Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority will receive technical assistance to support an area plan around a new bus rapid transit (BRT) station. The project will develop a plan to maximize TOD potential around the transit center and created a set of tools that can be replicated around other BRT stations.

The City of Omaha will get help maximizing the development potential of the Dodge Street BRT corridor, including helping draft TOD policy language that includes affordable housing and minimizing displacement of small businesses.

The City of Albuquerque will identify financial strategies and ridership tools with assistance to guide future development surrounding the San Mateo Station of the Central Avenue BRT project. The technical assistance will focus on how to finance infrastructure and real estate improvements to bring higher density, as well as how to incentivize ridership.

In Charlotte, the city and Charlotte Area Transit System will receive help developing strategies to preserve established neighborhoods and incentivize appropriate TOD along the western end of the Gold Line streetcar corridor, known as the Historic West End.

The City of Tacoma will receive technical assistance to identify economic development and housing opportunities along the Hilltop segment of the Tacoma Link light rail expansion. The technical assistance will result in an economic and housing market study that projects employment, housing, and property trends in addition to TOD opportunity sites.

Click here for TOD resources.


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