Festival

How smart parking keeps city event congestion at bay

 

Public events are an important part of any local council marketing strategy. Music events, sports matches and cultural festivals are not only a show of civic pride but will enhance the visitor experience and boost footfall in a city or town.

While this spike in activity brings many benefits to residents, retailers and the local authority, a sudden surge of people is likely to clog up the roads and put pressure on available parking.

So how can local councils make sure that access and parking doesn’t overshadow an event and potentially damage a city’s reputation as an enjoyable place to visit?

In this increasingly digital age, with 76 per cent of UK adults now owning a smartphone (Ofcom; 2017), using apps has become the norm.

The average smartphone user in the UK now spends more than two hours per day using apps, preferring to manage many aspects of their daily life in this way (App Annie; 2017).

This rise in app popularity presents councils with increasing opportunities to better manage traffic and optimise parking when planning to hold an event in their city.

With a bespoke parking app for their city or town, councils can offer the public an easier way to plan their journey.

A smart parking app can provide people with real-time information about the best route into the city and where to park when they get there. By taking information from sensors located in car parks and on street parking, an app can tell the user where the nearest car park is, what the tariffs are how many spaces are available.

On downloading the app, people can register their details so that when they drive into a car park the barrier camera will recognise the car registration and give them access. They will then be billed for the exact number of minutes for the duration their stay after they leave the car park.

There’s no searching for the correct change for pay and display and no rushing back to the car to remain inside a predetermined time slot.

Many car parks across a city are under used, simply because people don’t know that they are there. An app can help councils to utilise all of a city’s parking capacity and fill spaces in a uniform way by directing inbound people to the first available spot, using smart parking guidance, lights and signage. Facilitating a wider use of car parking space is particularly valuable when public events draw large crowds of people into a city. This efficient method of filling up available car parks means that councils can benefit from the maximum amount of parking revenue.

Authorities will also be able to manage and change the configuration of the parking app. Put simply, when a big event is taking place in the city, information offered by the app can be modified to guide people into the city via alternative routes. This could mean directing people to a park and ride service before filling up city centre parking.

On street parking sensors can also help to support parking enforcement efforts. A busy public event will often see people parking either illegally or dangerously, perhaps because they don’t have time to find somewhere else or they aren’t sure where to go. The sensors will send alerts to parking attendants who will be directed to the problem. Attendants can then work in a more effective way and councils will not lose out on parking enforcement revenue.

It can be challenging for councils to encourage uptake of a new a digital platform or application, and it is up to the individual authority to decide how best to promote a new service.

However, public events are a prime time to demonstrate the benefits of a parking app. Combining promotion of the app with marketing for the event could help to boost app downloads.

People who use the app for the event are likely to continue using it afterwards, and this will help to accelerate the roll out of new technology in the long term.

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