Parking management has traditionally been, and still is, done mainly with traffic signs. In the digital age, it seems strange that information is still given with hardware, especially when it works so poorly.

In practice, parking enforcement works pretty much like this:

  1. Parking signs are installed in order to communicate parking restrictions in an area.
  2. Drivers see the sign (“No parking”), and have two choices:
    1. Obey the rules, and keep searching for a vacant spot.
    2. Ignore the rules, park the car, and get on with their business.
  3. Parking enforcement officers write parking tickets for those who chose option b. Those who choose the option a, end up choosing it a dozen times during one single parking effort.

Thinking about it, isn’t it strange that there is no option c that says: “Obey the rules by following the information that guides you to a nearby place where parking is possible”?

Information about where you can park doesn’t exist.

Imagine: instead of all the negative information that parking signage conveys, what if drivers would know where parking is available? They could go directly to the areas where parking is allowed. Parking officers in turn could enjoy the accurate parking instead of a stream of violations.

The result would be a tremendous amount of time saved for both, effort saved for both, and a city that actually functions when it comes to parking.

Parking signs are simply not good enough when it comes to giving parking information.

It’s a clear mishap in the parking industry that communication is done just with physical signage. There is a number of reasons why parking signs are bad:

  • Parking signs convey negative information most of the time (not a very cooperative way to communicate).
  • They are difficult and costly to install, maintain and replace (vandalism is an unfortunately common pain)
  • They cannot keep up with rapid changes (imagine a street flooding after heavy rain – it’s not a time and place to start putting up signs!)
  • They are tied to a location (when you drive somewhere only to see “no parking”, you’ve already lost a ton of time for no gain whatsoever)
  • They result in violations (back to option b), and enforcement takes up a lot of resources.

Finding new ways of communication is a must for the parking industry.

Consider the inefficiency of physical signage and the inconveniences it causes, it’s clear that the information structure must be renewed.

Imagine that you need to find information on topic x. You go to the library, not sure where exactly to start the search, so you just go around blindly and hope for the best. The same experience is true of parking. When you don’t have any starting point for your quest for parking, you end up just driving around aimlessly hoping to come across a vacant space.

The library example is nowadays out-dated, because we all use Google for researching. So why on earth do we still use signage for parking?

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Main photo by “Augustin Polanco” from Flickr /CC