Pity the poor standalone parking meter, nestled between communities’ sidewalks and streets. A dozen years ago, five million were scattered across the U.S.. Today, according to the International Parking Institute, no one even bothers to count them any more. New York City is preparing to abandon its 85,000 meters to a PF-fueled mobile system, joining Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh with similar plans.
The movement is hardly surprising. Many of those metal poles could only handle coins and retrofitting them for magstripe—let alone EMV or NFC—is expensive and short-sighted. To get much of the money from those poles requires a municipal employee/contractor to physically move from pole to pole. The system for fining those who disobey the parking rules is equally inefficient.
Enter Jon Ziglar, the CEO of PF Parkmobile, whose company is behind many of those municipal parking meter obliteration efforts. His vision is far cleaner. A mobile app pays for the space and can even text a driver when the time is about to run out.
But this gets better. Parkmobile is in pilots today with Ford and BMW to integrate the app directly into cars. Marry the efficiency of a mobile app with a smartcar that can park itself and parking takes on a delightfully 21st Century shine.
The biggest problem with parking meters today—the one that is truly forcing municipalities to abandon them—is the cost of maintenance. “These things are expensive to maintain,” Ziglar said. Can they be made to accept mobile input? In theory, yes, but hooking each meter to a cellular connection is absurdly costly. These polls are outside and exposed to the elements 24×7, so breakdowns with electronics would be frequent.
Another problem is that polls require manual efforts to change rates. “And people bust into them and steal the money,” Ziglar added. “As EMV gets required, that’s an entirely new expense cost for all of those meters. I would be surprised if any meters even have the EMV hardware.”
But fear not. All of this modernization won’t rob you of those smile-generating parking tickets, although the ticket part will likely be replaced with a parking text or e-mail. Parking officers will use high-speed license plate readers to speed down the street, noting what license plates are parked in which spaces. The software compares the plates, the parking spot numbers, the time of day against iots payment records and instantly spits out the outlaws.
“Parking is an old-line business very quickly coming into the 21st century,” Ziglar said. “In 24 months, I’ll be able to park my car and the car will initiate a parking session on its own.”
Fear those visits to the large shopping mall on Dec. 22, wondering how many shoppers you’ll need to stalk before you ram your car into a spot? Then you calculate how quickly you can run into the store before that other driver—who had waiting for the same spot—has a chance to load his shotgun? (If that’s not your experience, you need to visit Jersey malls during the holidays.)
Alas, Ziglar is already working with parking operations at large malls to end all of that. Key parking spots will be governed by red and green lights, with red meaning that the spot is reserved. When you’re 10 minutes from the mall, your mobile/car app can reserve a spot and charge you for it. The nearer to the entrance, the higher the cost. Is it snowing? Pay a lot more for an indoor space.
Then when you arrive, your nav will direct you right to the spot, which turns the light green just before you pull in. “The deck will have a camera and will recognize the car,” Ziglar said.
Driving to a new neighborhood? Parkmobile will have you covered. The car/mobile app “will tell you that this street is your best chance of finding a space. And we can then guide people to where there are spots on the street or, if necessary, to a garage” with a reserved and paid-for spot.
As parking meters futurize—not unlike the car industry itself—the opportunities for a PF such as Parkmobile are endless.
Unlike some mobile apps that beg for shoppers to store their payment credentials with the app, “more than 85 percent of the people who download (Parkmobile’s app) register with full payment credentials,” Ziglar said.
The app has done so well that Ziglar has fending off sales outreach from Apple pitching ApplePay. Why no interest in Apple Pay? He argues that ApplePay’s main selling point is that it makes registration so much easier and faster. ApplePay “is solving a problem that I don’t have.”