Navigant Research Blog

Sustainable Parking Finds Its Spot

— July 3, 2013

Asked to list the industries that are becoming radically more sustainable through advances in technology, most people would likely put construction, agriculture, automotive, and utilities at the top.  While it may not have the panache of some trades, the parking industry is undergoing an equally significant upheaval.

The parking industry is in the midst of a quantum leap from the era of coin-operated meters and yellow-painted perimeters to becoming a sustainable service industry driven by intelligent connected devices and mobile apps.

“Smart parking” technology enables drivers to reduce emissions by quickly finding a desirable parking spot and reduces the use of resources by matching the supply of parking locations to demand.

“We are now access managers and service providers” said Casey Jones, who chairs the International Parking Institute, in describing how parking operators now view themselves.  Jones said that by monitoring the demand for parking, parking operators can better utilize the existing supply and not overbuild.

Peak Parking

Smart parking apps, which enable drivers to identify and price available parking spots from a phone or computer, are covering more cities each day, including, most recently, Redwood City, California, now served by Streetline.  Many cities will take a page from nearby San Francisco, which is testing dynamic pricing based on demand through its SFPark initiative.  While not everyone will be a fan of peak parking rates, using sensors to track availability and sending the data to mobile users will reduce traffic and idling (and therefore urban emissions).

Other cities, such as Los Angeles, Austin, Las Vegas and Santa Monica, are streaming parking meter data to parking application developer ParkMe, which has a database of more than 18,000 parking facilities.

Paul Wessel, executive director of the Green Parking Council, told me that the parking industry is now “treating parking spaces more like airplane seats” – i.e., making sure that there is a place for everyone, and that premiums and discounts are charged appropriately.

Wessel said the arrival of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) presents challenges for parking providers to understand where and how many EV charging spots should be located, and to develop best practices for installing equipment and accepting payments.   Some in the industry fear the potential for added expense and lost revenue if EV charge spots are mandated by the government before there is sufficient demand, according to Wessel.  The parking industry is right to partner with EV charging companies and automakers to make sure that all drivers are considered as PEVs are introduced.

Smart Parking Systems Annual Revenue by Region, World Markets: 2013-2020

(Source: Navigant Research)

According to a new report from Navigant Research entitled Smart Parking Systems, these innovations will result in revenue surpassing $350 million annually in 2020.  That’s impressive for an industry that until recently did not have innovative technology anywhere on its radar.


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