San Francisco replaced 23,000 parking meters with high-tech, tamper-resistant smart units at the end of 2003 and now the city is talking about smart parking which is hoped to reduce the amount of time drivers spend looking for a park.
The city is hoping to pilot a system where drivers can check parking availability before arriving at their destination via the internet, handheld devices such as BlackBerrys, or by cell phone. Sensors would be embedded in the asphalt to keep track of when a parking spot is empty.
When the city upgraded its parking meters, the primary goal of the project was to improve San Francisco’s parking meter revenues whilst reducing maintenance costs. Previously, approximately 1,700 meters were broken or missing at any given time. Prior to the project San Francisco’s parking meters annually generated $12.5m; far less than expected. Officials estimated that there was a loss of over $3m in annual parking revenue due to thieves.
San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic (DPT) contracted Serco Group Inc. to complete the $35m contract. Serco is an international outsourcing and management firm based in the UK. In 1996 San Francisco outsourced meter collection to this company (for a five year contract) but retains maintenance of the units.
Mayor Gavin Newsom said the technology to be used in the city’s new plans for smart parking will give people more choice, more convenience and reduce congestion.Drivers will be able to check via the internet or their mobile phone where a parking space is free.
ELECTRONIC PARKING METERS
The new meters installed are electronic and thus overcome the past problems of mechanical meters, such as moving parts wearing down, loss of accuracy, the difficulty in finding replacement parts and their vulnerability to damage and theft.
MACKAY METERS INC. SINGLE SPACE PARKING METERS
MacKay Meters Inc. manufactured the single space electronic meters that were installed in the parking meter replacement project.
REINO MULTI-SPACE PARKING METERS WITH LAUNCHPAD TECHNOLOGY
Reino multi-space meters have been installed primarily for motorcycle parking spaces. Approximately 1,400 single-space meters were replaced with 225 multi-space meters in an aim to reduce sidewalk clutter and improve the aesthetics of the surrounding urban environment.
The new meters can manager up to eight metered spaces and incorporate LaunchPad technology platforms that use industry-standard Smart Media removable memory which allows rate programming with a WindowsÂ® PDA. LaunchPad technology allows the addition of expansion modules such as cellular communications, SmartSolar power, Medeco electronic locks and additional memory.
QUARTZ CLOCK, ELECTRO-MECHANICAL LOCK, STORAGE OF DATA
Each new meter contains a quartz clock and an electronic vault lock to deter theft, as well as having the capability to store data such as total money plus a breakdown of dollars, quarters, nickels and dimes collected.
FORMS OF PAYMENT
The meters accept various coins and can take translink cards, also known as smart cards.
HOW TO USE A MULTI-SPACE PARKING METER
The process for using the meters is as follows. The user needs to remember the number on the sidewalk next to their vehicle and then walk in the direction of the arrow to the parking meter. When at the meter, the user will press the parking space number and pay for the required time.
COLLECTION OF MONEY FROM METERS
Serco crews collect money from about 6,000 meters per day, five days a week. These crews use handheld devices programmed with specific codes that can only unlock a certain group of meters on any particular day. This innovative concept ensures that if a device is stolen it cannot be used to unlock other meters.
At the same time as the collectors remove and store coins in a metal vault, the handhelds download data, such as the number and variety of coins collected. In addition the handhelds download maintenance data, including battery life.
PARKING METER MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
The parking meter management system collects, audits and tracks the performance of the new meters. It incorporates an Oracle Corp. database that includes software. This management system has been tied to several city agencies, enabling them to cull relevant information. For instance if the citation department, in response to a citizen’s dispute regarding a broken meter, needs to quickly find out whether a particular meter was functioning that day the management system will provide this information.
The main function of the management software is to verify meter collections; assuring that what has actually been collected matches what has been recorded on the meter.
FIVE-YEAR WARRANTY ON ALL PRODUCTS
The contract included a five-year warranty on all products because Serco had performance liabilities and bonding that exceeded 50% of the contract’s value in case of loss of revenues. The system and performance contracts have acquired interest from additional municipalities intending to upgrade their systems.
The main contractor for this project was Serco Group Inc. Subcontractors, MacKay Meters Inc. and Reino Parking Systems Inc., manufactured the new meters. Serco Integrated Transport, affiliated with the contractor, developed the management system.