Local governments could boost revenues by implementing innovative smart parking system technology, which studies show provides a boon to local economies.

In 2011, Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Co. Bill Ford warned against impending “global gridlock”: his TED Talk outlines how a rising world population threatens to put 2 to 4 billion cars on the road by the middle of this century, and how this giant traffic jam will “stifle economic growth and our ability to deliver food and health-care.” The answer to this impending problem, Ford says, lies in smart roads, smart public transportation, and smart parking. While the chickens may not come home to roost until 2050, the time to react is now.

A Problem for Today

Not even a quarter-way through the century, today’s city centers face major transportation challenges. Forbes notes how “more than 500 city managers, municipal employees, and private company executives around the world…rated transportation the highest priority for investment, ahead of environmental protection and even education.”

It’s an expensive problem. UCLA Professor Donald Shoup, author of “The High Cost of Free Parking,” indicates that Americans spend as much on off-street parking as they do on national defense, factoring in construction and maintenance costs. The cost to the community is multifold, as “additional driving encouraged by free parking increases traffic congestion, air pollution, and accidents.”

Recent studies report circling for parking in Los Angeles “translates [annually] to 47,000 gallons in wasted gas and 730 tons of carbon dioxide greenhouse gas”; in New York, a “lack of available parking causes about 366,000 excess vehicle miles of travel, 325 tons of carbon dioxide greenhouse gas, $129,561 in fuel and 50,000 hours of wasted time annually.” Still think this is a problem for another decade?

How Smart Parking Can Help

Fortunately for motorists and city managers, smart parking technology already exists. Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2015: The fusion of business and IT lauds San Francisco-based company Streetline, Inc. and their Smart Parking Ecosystem, which has successfully improved the economies of early-adopting urban centers.

As Deloitte’s report explains, when “deploying its platform,” Streetline installs sensors that ascertain whether or not an individual parking space is vacant or occupied. Then, a “middleware learning platform that merges real-time and historical sensor data determines the validity of a parking event (a true arrival or departure),” and “relays the current status of each space to the system’s backend.”

For quality-of-life enhancement and efficiency, “A variety of mobile and Web-based tools deliver up-to-the-minute information to commuters, business owners, city officials, and parking enforcement officers in or near the deployment area.”

An app directs drivers to available spaces and allows them to pay for parking electronically; motorists even have the ability to pay meters remotely to avoid fines. The technology’s mapping capability works in conjunction with the ParkerData™ Availability API to allow companies or municipalities to provide an up-to-date map of available parking in the Streetline-d area.

The benefits for adopting communities are far-reaching, from a smaller environmental footprint, to real economic growth, to an increasingly productive police force. One Streetline customer city saw a 12% increase in merchant sales tax revenue, attributed to increased parking space turnover and sales at local establishments where merchants capitalized on foot traffickers previously discouraged by congestion.

Deloitte underlines how whoever owns the parking — regardless of whether it’s a city, university, shopping center, airport, or company — has access to “information about utilization and consumer trends, as well as recommendations for better parking policies and pricing.” Data analysis can further optimize and correct what Ford calls in his TED Talk a “huge business opportunity and an enormous social problem.”

Streetline explicitly shares Ford’s vision, referencing his speech in its industry white paper, entitled “Becoming a Smart City.” So far, Streetline has made 40 locations smart, and enjoyed success in environments as challenging as Hollywood. Following this triumph, the city’s Department of Transportation has decided to bring Streetline to more parts of Los Angeles this year. Let’s just say I’m hoping they can do something about that LA traffic.