Intelligent technologies help put the service back into parking services
As she prepares to become the next President of the British Parking Association, Ashley Bijster is relishing the prospect of playing a central and influential role at such an important time for the industry. Managing Director of Imperial Civil Enforcement Solutions (ICES), the UK’s largest and most experienced provider of enforcement solutions and processing services, she is a champion for the use of intelligent technologies to maximise self-serve and deliver better services to customers. Here she explains why she’s so excited about the transformation that’s taking place within parking services in Western Europe.
Parking enforcement is no longer preoccupied with penalising drivers for wrongdoing. Far from it. Today it’s an essential component of the so-called ‘Smart City’ concept – where facilities, services and accessibility are aligned fully with the needs and expectations of an increasingly empowered and digitally mobile population. Thankfully, the parking industry recognises that, first and foremost, it’s responsible for delivering a service. And, to be effective, the focus of any service has to be on the service user/customer.
There are more cars on the road than ever before and the pressure on our country’s ageing road infrastructure and a finite number of parking facilities has never been greater. Add to that the economic woes of our struggling High Streets and the ever-faster pace everyday life, and a clear picture begins to emerge. Effective street management has never been more important. If our High Streets are difficult to get to, if parking a car is perceived as an insurmountable obstacle – or is loaded in favour of others – and if the roads around shops, leisure and entertainment venues are considered to be congested and unsafe, people will go elsewhere.
Fair and appropriate enforcement will always have an important role to play in effective street management. But, it’s just part of delivering a much wider service. Technology is helping to keep eyes focussed on the real priorities and the real objectives – to revitalise the heart of our towns and cities, to minimise congestion and improve accessibility and, most important of all, to minimise stress and make life easier for responsible motorists.
Significantly, the technologies are also converging, creating an entirely new dynamic. For the first time, there’s scope for drivers to not only take real responsibility for their own actions but also to experience, first hand, the very real benefits of effective enforcement. This represents a very exciting development for all road users and, without doubt, is already helping to change behaviours in a very positive way.
Consider, for example, the use of vehicle detection sensors for informing motorists about the availability of parking spaces, not just for ‘draconian’ enforcement purposes. And ANPR and CCTV systems can be linked to ever more advanced cashless payment systems to take the worry out of paying for a parking space – not just used as a means of ‘Big Brother’ enforcement. Technology is helping to change mindsets and helping drivers to make better decisions when it comes parking in and around town and city centres. And there are clear signs that motorists are responding to this shift towards service-led solutions – even when it comes to online evidence and payment options for parking contraventions.
The use of real-time data and the adoption of new technologies are increasing all of the time. New apps to capitalise on developments in GPS and related technologies are opening up new possibilities. Advances in RFID will continue to increase street management capabilities. And mobile payment technologies are improving all of the time. Such advances are helping our communities to move towards a culture where the emphasis is much more on empowerment, self-service and convenience.
This, in turn, raises awareness of two very important factors – the importance of personal responsibility; and, the need for everyone to recognise the value of fair access to our towns and cities – for employers and employees, for retailers and shoppers, for service providers and service users and so on. Educating and informing the driving public will always be key. So too is the need to ensure that high quality training of enforcement personnel is maintained at all times. I’m delighted, therefore, that my Presidency coincides with the BPA’s new partnership with WAMITAB which is delivering the most comprehensive training modules ever introduced for UK enforcement agencies.
Intelligent parking solutions where the focus is on customer service and an unwavering commitment to effective training and education will be my guiding principles as the next President of the British Parking Association.