According to the results of a recently released survey, the United States is undergoing a parking revolution as the industry embraces a variety of new technologies that make it easier for people to find and pay for parking, and for parking authorities to better manage it.

Denver is among the cities leading the nation in parking innovations. Other notable municipalities include San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Portland, Miami, Houston, Boston, Pittsburgh and Tampa. Dozens of other cities were also identified. Clearly, parking technology is becoming mainstream.

These findings come from the “2013 Emerging Trends in Parking” survey was conducted among members of the International Parking Institute (IPI) and released at the 2013 IPI Conference & Expo on May 19-22. Survey highlights are as follows.

Smartphones and the “Space Race”

Topping the list of trends in the $30-billion parking industry is the “move toward innovative technologies to improve parking access control and payment automation,” cited by 59% of respondents. Another top trend is “real-time communication of pricing and availability to mobile/smart phones” (52%). Both trends are evident in San Francisco’s federally funded SFpark pilot project, which supplies real-time information on the availability and cost of on- and off-street parking, drastically reducing driver circling while hunting for open spaces, congestion, and double-parking.

According to San Francisco County Transportation Authority Park Manager Jay Primus, the city also may be the first in the U.S. to quantify the number of available parking spaces in all public lots, garages and city blocks. Seattle’s new electronic parking-guidance system uses dynamic real-time message signs and web information to direct people to available off-street parking at six downtown garages.

Payment Options Expand 

The second leading trend is the demand for electronic (cashless) payment (54%), with cities such as Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Houston and Miami, among others, incorporating pay-by-phone programs. Acclaimed as the world's most successful of its type, the D.C. program has earned 550,000 customers and accounts for 40% of the city’s parking revenues. About 80% of the seven million transactions to date employ smart phones, with payment options that include credit cards, online and mobile money management solutions and PayPal. Miami and Pittsburgh are among the pioneering cities in incorporating license-plate recognition technology as another means of quick and efficient payment.

Smarter Business Approach

The trends toward demand for greater parking revenue (38%) and more public-private partnerships (24%), are demonstrated by Miami’s innovative public-private partnerships. Similar programs have been launched in cities such as Houston, where consultants posed the question: “What would a parking program look like if it was managed by Nordstrom?” This prompted a focus on parking as an engine for municipal economic development.

Green Solutions

Other notable trends include collaboration among parking, transportation, and decision makers (43%), need for improved customer service (31%), and demand for green/sustainable solutions (30%). Among the technology considered to have the greatest potential in improving sustainability are guidance systems to enable drivers to find parking faster and reduce carbon emissions (57%), energy-efficient lighting (55%), encouraging alternative travel by providing bike storage, car and bike share, access to transit, etc. (42%), accommodating electric-vehicle charging stations (21%), renewable-energy installations such as solar panels and wind power and innovative water and stormwater management systems (11%).

For example, the city of Tampa cut its energy costs in half by upgrading lighting in its parking facilities, joining Miami, Denver and other cities in offering citywide electric-vehicle charging stations. Miami was among the first U.S. city to partner with a car-share program, which has since taken root in a number of other cities across the country.

Society’s Effect on Parking

When asked which societal changes have the most significant effect on parking, 62% of respondents mentioned increased traffic congestion, along with higher gasoline prices (54%), the desire for more livable, walkable communities (44%), and the aging population (34%).

“These programs illustrate that everyone benefits when parking professionals, government officials, architects, urban planners and other decision makers collaborate to solve problems,” says IPI Executive Director Shawn Conrad. “By embracing innovative technology and forging public-private partnerships, cities can convert long-existing parking issues into models of sustainability, efficiency, revenue-generation and customer service.”

The IPI survey was conducted in April. Results were tabulated and analyzed by Washington, D.C.-based Market Research Bureau.