The parking meter has been around since the 1930s, silently raising revenue for towns and cities while regulating the times and locations where drivers can park. The smart parking meters of today, though they may look nearly identical, offer a lot more “under the hood” than the old-fashioned mechanical meters.
A 30-year-veteran of the parking industry, David Williams has seen parking trends come and go. He’s also helped usher in innovations so groundbreaking they transformed the industry as a whole. When he first started work as the only parking technician for Culver City, California back in the 1980s, the equipment was all mechanical and not integrated with a backend system. As a result, he said, changing parking rates “was a pain” and the system was “unacceptable.”
“You had to take the meter apart completely by opening it up, and then winding the wheel to change rates,” he said. “I would have to walk around to every meter in the city, and it took about 15 minutes per machine for 700-800 machines.”
The city’s mechanical meters remained in place until the 1990s, when it transitioned to Duncan electronic meters. More change came when the city switched from single-space meters to central pay stations. “I didn’t believe those would take off, because one machine had to monitor a whole street,” Williams said.
The problem with older multi-space pay stations was they required drivers to walk to a central meter, pay, get a receipt and walk back to put it on their car. “It’s a lot of work for people who would rather get out of their car, pay for parking, and walk away.”
The Single Greatest Parking Development
Doubting the longevity of the multi-space parking trend, IPS Group invented a single-space solar-powered Smart Parking Meter that could be paid with a credit card.
“It was the product everyone had been waiting for, because people had started carrying credit cards instead of cash,” Williams said. “The Smart Parking Meter may be the single greatest development in parking of all time.”
Williams believes, depending on the city and type of enforcement, the IPS single-space Smart Parking Meter with vehicle sensors and a web-based data management system is the future for parking technology.
“We recently changed downtown parking rates, and we were able to tell the public the exact date it was going to happen,” he said. “I went from spending hundreds of hours to change a rate to being able to do it in one zap.”
Cities can definitely benefit from a smart parking system through increased revenues, ease of enforcement, and strategic data collection and analysis. The public benefits, too.
“Customer service is the key to a successful parking program,” Williams said. “That’s why we’re here.”
Williams believes the most important thing to consider when updating a parking system is the responsiveness of the technology company.
“You have to have support from the company, and we have that from IPS,” he said.
IPS Group, Inc. is headquartered in San Diego, CA (USA), with offices in Canada and Europe. IPS is a design, engineering, and manufacturing company focused on low-power wireless telecommunications, payment processing systems, parking technologies, and SaaS management software. An industry pioneer, IPS has been delivering smart city technology solutions for over 20 years. The company offers a fully integrated smart product suite comprised of single-space meters, multi-space pay stations, pay station upgrade kits, vehicle detection sensors, smart cash collection systems, and SaaS management software with advanced data analytics. IPS is delivering the Internet of Things (IoT) and Intelligent Parking Systems to transportation and parking operations all over the world.