High Tech Parking Spaces Helping Drivers and Police

New technology designed to help drivers find open parking spaces is also making it easier for police to ticket illegally parked cars.

Smart parking systems that use sensors embedded in road that can tell if spaces are occupied and then communicate with drivers via smartphone apps are popping up in cities across the country. The idea is to cut down on the amount of time people spend circling the block searching for a place to park, wasting fuel and tying up traffic in the process.

A study done by Donald Shoup, a professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, found that in just one 15 block area of Los Angeles, drivers covered an extra 950,000 miles over the course of a year looking for parking, using an estimated 47,000 gallons of gasoline in the process.

Streetline is now working with Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Asheville, N.C. and several other municipalities to institute the system, but it’s not just for the driver’s benefit. The data collected can be used to create a flexible pricing system that charges higher rates at peak times and notify police where and when someone has gone over their limit, streamlining patrols and optimizing revenue. Private garages can use the same system to track business and promote available spaces in real time.

But metered parking is just part of it. The city of Massapequa Park in New York is installing a similar system from a company called StreetSmart Technologies in no-parking zones near fire hydrants, crosswalks and handicapped parking spaces to monitor for violators. It’ll be up and running in November, and scofflaws will get slapped with $25 tickets and possibly towed.

New York City is also testing StreetSmart in a small section of its Bronx neighborhood, but only tied to a space finder app, not for law enforcement. The goal of the trial is to see if the hockey-puck sized sensors have what it takes to survive a winter on the mean streets of New York.

The sensors themselves are self-contained and powered by batteries that last for several years. Streetline charges $25-$30 per sensor. As they can only monitor the presence of a vehicle, and don’t use visual imaging, privacy issues aren’t a concern. That is unless you fail to feed the meter and cause a parking enforcement officer to be summoned.

More advanced versions can also make that situation easier to avoid by allowing you to pay for parking over your cell phone and StreetSmart's can send a text message when your meter is about to expire. Just remember, you’re not the only one who’ll be getting it.

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