Making Parking Painless
Originally published on New Electronics in October 2018.
At a time when the pressure on Britain’s roads and transport systems has never been more intense, with congestion at an all-time high, a US business is bringing a new parking platform to the UK in a bid to improve traffic management.
The company, Passport, is a world leader in mobile payments for the transportation industry and provides services for parking, mobile ticketing, cashless tolling, digital permits and parking enforcement.
According to Adam Warnes, Vice President of Passport’s UK Operations, “Weare effectively providing a connected platform that allows citizens to interact and carry out transactions with a city’s authorities. It allows the city to collect and store data and the platform is able to support a number of products from mobile ticketing to parking enforcement.”
Passport describes its platform as making ‘parking painless’ and to coincide with its launch in the UK, it commissioned a survey that threw up some interesting findings.
According to the survey, the issue of mobility in UK cities is a serious concern.
It found that 83% of drivers said that parking machines don’t work when they needed them and over half of the drivers questioned said that there were problem areas with parking in their cities; almost a third reported an increase in illegal parking; while more than a quarter of city councils (27%) said the rise of new modes of transport (such as rideshares and dock-less cycles) were causing problems, while 37% of councils said there was inadequate funding for parking and public transportation programmes in their cities.
“Passport, as a business, has been around for 6 years,” says Devin Patel, VP Business Development. “Set up in Charlotte, in North Carolina, we’ve grown rapidly and now operate in 27 of the top 50 cities in the US, where we run our parking platform.
“Our goal is to transform the way cities manage their operations and we’ve now been adopted by more than 450 cities, universities, and private operators around the world including cities such as Chicago, Toronto, and Miami.
“Passport enables organisations in the public and private sectors to streamline their operations, enhance customer service, and make better data-driven decisions.
“Crucially, it provides dynamic charging that can relate to levels of congestion and provides a platform that can deliver information in real time. Should I take a car into town, for example, when a big match is on, or should I take public transport? It looks to address both traffic and safety concerns.”
According to Patel as the population of cities has grown, traffic management within urban environments has become fraught and needs better management.
“While it starts with parking, mobile ticketing for transit, cashless tolling and the issuing of digital permits are all critical to reducing congestion, regulating traffic flows and improving urban living in a way that meets the digital-first nature of today’s citizens.”
Patel makes the point that Passport’s platform enables organisations to have the ability to “embrace a new approach to transport management – one that combines policy, infrastructure and technology.”
“We want to equip those responsible for planning, managing and enforcing parking and public transportation with a scalable platform that meets the needs of commuters, while improving back office efficiencies for councils,” explains Warnes.
“By injecting data into the platform we are able to encourage better use of finite space, which then provides time savings for consumers. We are better able to manage the curb space.”
“The platform provides massive cost savings,” suggests Patel. “From the operators’ perspective, because it is an application they can take out the physical infrastructure, for example, the need for parking meters.
“While these are low hanging value-adds, as an app, we can be integrated into other services and are currently engaging with Ford and uber as we seek to address issues around better curb side management.
“The platform is reliable and intuitive, which creates a simple and seamless user experience, and it is flexible and innovative. We can actively update and reshape our products in the light of client feedback and we are able to offer cross-functional features that can help to solve problems across various operations.”
It’s that ability that has proven the platform’s worth, according to Patel.
“We’re seeing new modes of shared transportation, whether that is ridesharing or dock-less scooters, but whatever the means of transportation new tools and systems are required to manage them more effectively.”
Passport’s expansion into the UK follows a successful mobile cashless payment programme with Westminster City Council last year.
Passport worked with the council to develop and launch ParkRight, a tailored parking app that includes a vehicle-based pricing structure that targeted diesel operated vehicles.
According to the council, within the first two weeks from launch, ParkRight surpassed the council’s legacy app’s utilisation through its improved user experience, on-boarding and easy payment.
According to Vicky Nock, Head of Parking for Westminster City Council said: “If we want to ensure a safe and clean environment for our citizens, we must engage directly with them to meet their needs and address their questions. Effective transport and traffic management is an essential part to champion air quality, relieve congestion and ensure a frictionless driving and parking experience.
“Passport offered an intuitive application that supports a vehicle-based pricing structure for parking, and that has helped us support our clean air initiative and deliver quicker and easier parking.”
Passport is able to provide an end-to-end mobility platform, which despite its global presence, has yet to be seen in the UK market.
“We’re making a large-scale push into both the UK and Irish markets,” said Warnes.
“The chief benefits of the system are the cost savings. Chicago, for example, cut the costs of parking management by over 70 per cent. It’s a mobile only service and from the consumer’s perspective the service is frictionless. It can also be integrated into other services.”
The fact that the platform can be integrated brings significant cost savings to the city authorities, but it also means that rather than having to work with multiple suppliers, with different complex backend systems, the Passport platform is able to simplify the entire process.
“We are able to handle all the different services provided by local authorities and can bring all that data to one place, making it much easier to take smarter decisions.”
“We can easily add new suppliers to the platform,“ Patel explains. “Suppliers will need the correct accreditations, financial and technical, but more importantly the take up of the platform will be dependent on the appetite of the council or city authority to embrace the technology.”
Among cities London is a unique proposition for the kind of platform that Passport has developed.
According to Warnes, “Unlike in the US, European cities are not only concerned with reducing costs but with the environmental issues that arise from congestion.
“For many cities our platform provides a quick and relatively simple platform to help them come into the digital age.” He continues, “London’s size and complexity is a challenge for the platform. There are 33 distinct councils as well as the office of the Mayor of London and Transport for London (TFL). They each have different objectives and even within councils different departments will have distinct policies and objectives.”
However, according to Warnes, London’s boroughs are becoming more joined up in their thinking.
“We are seeing councils coming together. “ He points to the West London alliance, for example, which brings various authorities together to develop joint procurement programmes.
“Complexity forces a conversation between different departments and they are starting to recognise that if they want to solve problems they will have to start working together and Passport provides them with a platform to do just that, whether that is reducing congestion, attaining specific revenue goals or improving the environment.”