Parking Management Buyer’s Guide: Procuring for a Mobility Platform
Today’s Challenge: An Evolving Ecosystem
Today, parking management is chaotic. Technology enhancements for various parts of the mobility ecosystem, including parking, payments, and enforcement, are coexisting but not necessarily cooperating. Each maintains a data silo that makes it very difficult for the city to view its parking environment holistically and even more difficult to add new capabilities or adapt to new challenges.
This has resulted in an existing technology ecosystem that cannot be effectively coordinated, and the idea of incorporating future technology into a city’s parking management portfolio likely seems daunting. Taking deliberate steps to foster innovation, cooperation, flexibility, and standardization in technology infrastructure can significantly decrease this burden. This will result in significant benefits in operational consistency, including but not limited to:
- Eliminating duplicative costs and simplifying integrations
- Understanding activity trends and make informed decisions with data
- Enabling and accelerating innovation, including introducing a variety of new payment methods and reducing hardware costs
- Future-proofing your operation to ensure it’s easy to add new payment methods without new technology, processes, or procurements
- Lay the foundation for what lies ahead in micro-mobility, rideshare, and autonomous vehicles
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To effectively manage the evolving parking ecosystem, city managers need a centralized tool to power and organize multiple technologies by standardizing how information and funds flow into and out of their operation.
Centralizing Parking Management Through a Mobility Platform
A mobility platform is technology that standardizes how components of your infrastructure communicate with one another. This increases operator visibility simplifies future integrations, opens the door for new partnerships, and empowers a city to measure, manage, and scale its entire parking ecosystem from a single source.
Measure: Centralized Data Clearinghouse. Aggregating activity data in a single real-time system can reduce the time, complexity, and expense of measuring financial and operational patterns. It also allows parking operators to understand and predict:
Additionally, by aggregating all relevant data streams and providing a single unified data access point for enforcement, invoicing, business intelligence, and accounting systems, operators can alleviate the complexity of transmitting data between individual vendors.
In order to ensure that a mobility platform maximizes the value of storing and analyzing an operator’s aggregated parking data set, the procurement process should include the following requirements:
- All session data. The vendor should allow the export of all session data in a common format (CSV, Excel, etc), as well as in other common industry-standard formats.
- Real-time reporting. The vendor should be able to report on session activity in real time across all connected systems.
- Common export interface. The vendor should provide a common interface for other systems to access session data from third-party systems.
Manage: Digital Curb Policy. Consistency in zones, rates and rules across mobility technologies and payment methods minimizes the revenue impact of incorrect rates, simplifies on-street signage, and reduces the operational complexity of managing curbside policies across multiple systems.
By creating a single source of rates and rules, parking managers can easily support any entity that wants to facilitate parking sessions, including popular applications and technologies that are not traditional parking apps.
In order to ensure that the mobility platform can perform the critical function of providing an accurate curb policy for all parking transactions, the following product requirements should be incorporated into the procurement process:
- Transaction volume. The vendor’s rate engine must have been used to calculate parking rates for a significant number of parking transactions in recent years, for example, at least ten million parking transactions for each of the past three years.
- Quantity of supported operations. The vendor’s rate engine should be in use in at least 200 different parking operations to ensure it can support a variety of rate policies and configurations.
- API-based. The vendor’s rate engine should be API-based, publicly documented, and accessible from any internet-connected device. With open APIs, any company – not just traditional parking apps – should be able to integrate parking payments into its apps or experiences.
- Testing and verification. The vendor’s rate engine should include a rate tester for easy verification that rates are driving desired outcomes.
Scale: Paid Sessions Anywhere. A mobility platform should provide the technical infrastructure and tools to standardize the creation and funds flow of a parking session. Creating a parking session involves payment processing, transmission to enforcement providers and other operational entities, and real-time submission to the Centralized Data Clearinghouse.
The mobility platform enables session creation from any connected system and ensures that all sessions are formatted, stored, and transmitted consistently, and ensures delivery to any number of parking enforcement systems. It also standardizes funds flows to ensure that operators receive funds in a timely and consistent manner, regardless of how many providers are creating sessions. These streamlined funds flow and the availability of standard financial reporting tools significantly simplify the operator’s finance and billing operations.
Imagine if parking sessions were created every time…
- An Uber driver stops to make a pickup at the curbside, based on GPS location
- A taxi license plate is scanned as it drops off a passenger
- A delivery driver pulls into a space to pick up an online order
- A scooter is parked on a sidewalk
- A car pulls into its usual parking garage, automatically through the car’s infotainment system
Beyond Parking: Moving Toward Curbside Management
Cities and parking operators must effectively deploy technology to improve today’s parking operations, but parking is merely the first example of a more complex trend: curbside management.
As cities become denser and develop more complex mobility ecosystems, demand for curb space will dramatically rise. According to Deloitte’s “Toward a mobility operating system” paper, “More infrastructure is simply not enough—urban challenges increasingly require more efficient use of existing assets, land, and the flexible deployment of new services that meet specific needs at times of peak demand.” As a result, municipal parking authorities may be forced to regulate a diverse set of curbside activities, including:
- Rideshare pickups and drop-offs
- Parking for scooters, bike share, or other shared flees
- Commuter parking, and
- Commercial deliveries
Therefore, cities must begin laying the infrastructure that will allow them to effectively regulate this valuable real estate.
A centralized mobility platform provides the flexibility to coordinate a diverse curbside ecosystem. While new curbside regulatory regimes will expand the number and type of activities that occur at the curbside, the three central components of curbside management technology rely upon the same infrastructure as today’s parking operations: measuring data through collection and analysis, managing operations through consistent rates and rules, and scaling the ability to create a paid curbside session.
In the near future, paying for parking may be done directly in navigation apps, in-dash systems, or even autonomous vehicles. The mechanism to create a session may change to accommodate new curbside activity, but the underlying infrastructure remains constant. By purchasing a mobility platform, a city can prepare itself to serve a central function in managing the demands of tomorrow’s mobility ecosystem, making way for innovation without increasing complexity. Powered by a robust, extensible platform, today’s parking technology can scale quickly and reliably to meet tomorrow’s challenges.
While centralizing data, policy, sessions, payments, and reporting in a single system has massive benefits, it also introduces new dependencies and risks: it introduces a single point of operational failure, relies upon integrations with a diverse and poorly coordinated vendor ecosystem, and increases the impact of a data breach by increasing data centralization. These risks are significant but can be mitigated.
Single Point of Failure: A centralized mobility platform powers every payment method, so platform downtime makes it impossible to pay for parking through any method. This has follow-on effects to parking enforcement revenue and customer satisfaction. In order to mitigate this risk, cities should require a platform to have:
- Rigorous uptime requirements consistent with business-critical systems in other industries (99.999% uptime)
- Proven ability to scale to a high transaction volume without service interruption or degradation
- Performance that can support a variety of use cases and fast response time at scale
Reliance On Integration Partners: Introduction of a centralized mobility platform requires tighter coordination of many technology providers in a city because vendors must either send data to or receive data from the mobility platform in a predefined format, creating an implementation risk. In order to mitigate this, the operating system technology must be simple to integrate, which can be achieved by considering the following requirements:
- Well-documented, standards-based APIs that can be implemented by a vendor with minimal involvement from the platform provider
- APIs accessible for any operator-approved, internet-connected partner
- Minimal or non-existent integration fees for adding new systems to the platform, regardless of vendor
Increased Impact Of Data Breaches: Introduction of a centralized mobility platform consolidates all operational and financial data into a single aggregated source. As a result, a data breach could expose more sensitive data. In order to mitigate this risk, the following data security and data control requirements should be considered:
- Vendor employee background checks prior to their first day of employment, in addition to vendor employee security awareness training.
- Vendor and client user access control levels
- Encryption at rest and in transit with at least AES-256
- Utilization of a tier 1 datacenter provider.
- A copy of vendor data retention and information security, and incident response plans and policies
- Verified SOC 1 and SOC 2 certifications
- Verified PCI-DSS Level 1 Compliance certified by 3rd party
- Penetration testing by ethical, “white-hat” hackers
- A cyber-insurance policy with $5 million in coverage per incident
- Indemnification of the city for insurance policy limits in the event of a breach
Pricing for a mobility platform should scale with the volume of transactions created using the system. This pricing principle aligns the cost of the system with a city’s parking revenue and the complexity of its parking technology ecosystem. As cities go out to bid for a platform solution, the following should be taken into consideration:
- Avoid a “lowest responsible bidder” procurement process. A non-neutral bidder that intends to use the mobility platform as leverage in a future procurement can afford an unsustainably low price under the assumption that they will recoup their revenue under the subsequent contract. A procurement process designed to emphasize low price dramatically increases the risk of selecting a non-neutral bidder.
- Approach very low prices with skepticism. If a price looks too good to be true, it probably is. The operating system contract should yield enough revenue to sustain the product as a stand-alone contract.
- Require neutral integration pricing. The city’s mobility platform should be built for low-cost, low effort ecosystem integrations. Integration fees should, therefore, be included for every city-approved integration partner.
- Require neutral license fees. Per-session fees should be equal across all payment methods. This prevents the vendor of the mobility platform from creating proprietary per-session cost advantages in a subsequent procurement by giving the city a “discount” on operating system license fees.
- Avoid vendor lock-in. By standardizing the inputs and outputs across parking payment vendors, a mobility platform can massively reduce the costs and pains of transition and the addition of new technologies. This is particularly important in high-capital expenditure hardware procurements, where contracts are large and infrequent enough to encourage anti-competitive behavior.
Parking management today can be chaotic. But implementing technology that will optimize city’s parking operations now and build a solid foundation for future challenges is possible. If you have questions about adding a mobility platform to your parking operation, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.