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IBM Launches Parking Meter Analytics System 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the nickel-and-dime-analytics dept.
itwbennett writes "It's not just a parking spot, think of it as a 'revenue-producing asset,' says Vinodh Swaminathan, IBM's director of intelligent transportation systems. Working with San Francisco-based startup Streetline, IBM has launched a system designed to help cities ease parking congestion and collect more parking fees. Streetline's remote sensors can determine if a parking space is taken by a car, whether a customer has paid, and how much time is left on the meter. And IBM's business intelligence software parses the data and generates reports and statistics for government managers. Drivers can benefit too: A free mobile phone app can help locate available parking spaces."
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IBM Launches Parking Meter Analytics System

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  • and how well will the sensors stand up to the weather? cars? people defacing meters?

    • by hamisht (197412)
      I can understand parking meters, but people defacing meters? What sort of metrics are collected for that: type of defacement? degree of defacing? How much does each defacement cost?
      • by plover (150551) *

        There's a very well documented case of defacing meters [imdb.com]. It's a good thing it was recorded on video, because the meter communications mesh afterwards, well, what we got here is ... failure to communicate.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Peak G force at impact.

        I'm only half way kidding... A network of seismometers could have some scientific value, or at least be a cool hack, or "educational".

      • There is no need for metrics if IBM is willing to warranty them against defacement, or at least guarantee that their replacement/repair costs don't go past a certain maximum amount. After all, standing up against tampering is their primary function. If the city could trust people, it wouldn't need meters, it would just need buckets in front of parking spaces, that people would just throw coins into as necessary.

        • > If the city could trust people, it wouldn't need meters, it would just need buckets in front of parking spaces, ...

          Or just a promise to return it to the government, come tax time.

          Hmm... how about a camera that scan license plates and uses DMV information to pre-populate IRS forms at tax time? (Which could then pass on the monies to local government as needed). Maybe we could have the option to do our returns monthly. :D

      • Even in a small town, this is a known quantity.

        I live in a small town and do the IT support for the municipality on the side. The two guys at public works absolutely know exactly how many meters were defaced, and how much in parts and time each one cost to repair. You have to remember, municipalities work off of work orders and loads paperwork in general. This data exists. I can be collected and aggregated. For a single municipality like SF, it's probably its own budget line.

      • by mallyn (136041)
        Simple solution for vandalism.

        Meters can be easily equipped with low cost webcams.

        Since these meters will need wifi or some other connection to have their data collected, why not piggy back a webcam's stream as well.

    • by gazelam (1227608)
      My company helped build the antennas for Streetline's sensor packages. All the electronics, batteries, and antenna gets potted up in epoxy and is every bit as durable as any other raised pavement marker. Of course, that makes it every bit as vulnerable to snowplows, unless they are recessed into the pavement. You can beat them up if you've a mind to, but rubber tires are not a significant threat, no matter how much weight is on top of the tires.
  • Well, if Boston is like other parts of the country/world, the meter maids are already pretty good about making sure that as soon as your meter is up (sometimes even a couple minutes before) there is a ticket on your window. It's hard for me to see this increasing profits for cities (aside from saving money on meter maids).

    Should this parking-spot-finding mobile app come to fruition, the real winners here are drivers.
    • I would assume most cities are not nearly as prolific at handing out tickets than Boston. Generating parking revenue is one area where they have their act together. Cambridge even puts yoga images to calm you down after handing you a $25 ticket.
      • $25!! That Cambridge area must be in the boondocks!

        In San Francisco, our fines for expired meters are $68. In Berkeley, it's $43. And of course, other kinds of parking violations have much higher fines.

        • Oh yeah? In Oakland they just take your car. Or was that something else that happened?
          • by mallyn (136041)
            I remember in the old days (1976) in Lewiston, Maine, the fine for overtime parking was $.50. Yes. That's 50 cents. I did not get a ticket, but I saw the pad of tickets at the police station when I had to go in to file a police report on some vandalism at my radio station.
    • by sprior (249994) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @04:54PM (#37545792) Homepage

      I think systems like this will reset any time left on the meter as soon as the car pulls out, so nobody can come in and park "for free" by using the left over minutes. That's what increases the revenue.

      • by Reece400 (584378) <Reece400@hotmail.com> on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @05:06PM (#37545992)
        They've already done this in a lot of places by using pay and display meteres, where the time if on the ticket on your dash (sure, you can still pass the ticket on, but that's much less likely that just leaving the meter with the time on it).
        • Been there - in the old fashioned way.

          I pulled into a carpark right after someone pulled out, saw that there was 30 min left on the meter, and started to walk away.

          A parking inspector came up and said he was going to ticket me. I asked what for. He said because I had not paided. I pointed to the meter, which was showing 30 minutes or so left.

          To avoid a pointless argument with an idiot I put 10c in (yes, this was a while back, around 10 years ago), which added another 10 minutes and wandered away.

          I swear tha

      • by Fnord666 (889225)

        I think systems like this will reset any time left on the meter as soon as the car pulls out, so nobody can come in and park "for free" by using the left over minutes. That's what increases the revenue.

        The article makes this sound like a strictly passive system. They add two sensors to an existing parking meter, one to monitor the space and one to read the display. The system relays analytical data to a central server to generate reporting on usage, etc. It also sounds like it doesn't generate any sort of ticketing by itself. At best there might be an application that meter maids could use to more quickly target delinquent parkers.

        one of the interesting points is that the data will be fed into an inst

    • by retchdog (1319261)

      they can fire the meter maids. duh.

    • by lakeland (218447)

      As you say, the saving comes from fewer meter maids.

      Even at a low hourly rate, being able to make redundant a couple dozen people would pay for the system soon enough.

    • In many areas of West Los Angeles, I simply will not park and do business in the city and be victimized by this predatory tax, and many I know feel this way. How can you possibly enjoy a meal or shopping when you are worried about a ticket? It's fool's gold, as it discourages commerce in your city. Beverly Hills, OTOH, gives two free hours parking and has large parking structures to encourage people to come and shop and eat.

      Parts of Westwood have been called a "ghost town" [dailybruin.com] due to its business-unfriendly
  • My solution to this conundrum is simply to not go anywhere you must pay to park. This pretty much rules our most big cities, or at least most areas of big cities. This has the nice side effect of keeping me out of high crime areas. If you're going to charge me to park on a public road, funded by tax dollars, some of which came from me, I will not park there. If I don't park there, I of course won't be spending money in the surrounding areas. Their loss not mine, I hate cities.

    • by vlm (69642)

      My solution to this conundrum is simply to not go anywhere you must pay to park. This pretty much rules our most big cities, or at least most areas of big cities. This has the nice side effect of keeping me out of high crime areas. If you're going to charge me to park on a public road, funded by tax dollars, some of which came from me, I will not park there. If I don't park there, I of course won't be spending money in the surrounding areas. Their loss not mine, I hate cities.

      I've found places that try to nickel and dime me to death also have horrendous traffic, yet another good reason to stay away. And the nickel and dime mentality extends to the retail and service providers in the area, so I get better cheaper service by going somewhere "better"

      I would like an app showing where I can park for free...

    • by cduffy (652)

      Funny thing about the public roads with tax dollars that you fund -- other people pay those taxes too.

      I was not long ago at a public meeting about putting in some bike lanes on a neighborhood road with peak parking utilization measured well under 40%; this required taking out parking on one side of the street. The road in question was a great candidate -- its position relative to a major highway makes it a poor thoroughfare for motorists (who are subject to a one-way-only turn preventing them from using it

      • Point is? The other people you're sharing this parking space with also pay the same taxes you do. Does this give you more right than they have? If not, why should you have the ability to take advantage of first-come-first-serve rules to get unlimited use of a very scarce resource -- thereby blocking others, who already paid in those same taxes, from access to the same?

        [For the uninitiated -- gas taxes, vehicle registration, and the like pay for highways, not city streets].

        It gives no more right to a given parking spot than anyone else, which is why it should simply be first come first serve. Charging additional for use of a resource already paid for is wrong. Government does not exist to rake in money above the operating and maintenance cost of a given resource. Government is supposed to be small and limited. Adding the expense of meters and enforcement raises the cost of the government to operate, and then they need not only the paid parking income but also many fines for v

        • by cduffy (652)

          Charging additional for use of a resource already paid for is wrong.

          First, "already paid for" is... a very controversial choice of words. Transportation funding is expensive and ongoing, and maintenance of preexisting roads is a large part of that -- they don't just sit there forever once they're built any more than electric lines do.

          Second, what you're asking for is a effectively a subsidy -- an expensive public resource (and making the roads wider to accommodate parking is considerably more expensive than

          • The taxes that pay for these roads with parking along the side are ongoing taxes, just as the maintenance costs are ongoing. It is paid for without the need to bloat government and make it into a larger police state depending on violations for ongoing operations. The fact is that governments, especially where I live, tax the daylights out of homeowners and even more so out of businesses. There is no reason there should not be enough money to repave already established roads, including the parking area to th

            • by cduffy (652)

              I pay for by consumption for my usage of minicipal water and other utilities, as it should be. I see what you're getting at though I don't necessarily agree with it. Part of a functional and useful public road system is parking in certain areas that would logically require parking.

              It's also not a very "functional and useful" water utility if you don't actually get any water to consume -- yet you're fine with water not actually being delivered unless you pay use fees on top of the base infrastructure mainten

              • Water is different. You are getting a physical resource which costs money to treat and transport. You are continually using more, and pay for that usage. Water utilities are limited by law in many areas (particularly drought prone areas) which causes problems. Nobody has the right to water. It is a scarce resource which costs money. In many places laws are made to prevent utilities from raising rates, this results in overuse which exascerbates drought conditions. In a free market the costs would steadily in

                • by cduffy (652)

                  To compare a parking space to water is a poor choice as they are quite different.

                  The economic concept of scarcity applies to both -- and this is precisely what my argument hinges on.

                  High-demand parking spaces are also scarce. That the costs to produce them and maintain them are paid on a less-frequent basis and amortized over time doesn't make those costs disappear, no matter how much you might prefer to believe the contrary.

                  Indeed, buying a single private parking space in high-demand areas can be a six-fig [nytimes.com]

                • by cduffy (652)

                  I'm kicking myself for not drawing a stronger parallel here --

                  In a free market the costs would steadily increase as the water is used and reservoirs go dry (very visible, to me anyway as a recreational boater on those reservoirs). The increasing rates would result in increased awareness of usage and of course most folks would use significantly less as rates increased during droughts.

                  This is exactly why parking should have market pricing as well! When downtown parking is scarce -- a "drought" -- hourly parki

                  • While parking and water may appear similar on the surface, they are not the same. When parking gets scarce, more parking can be made either by the local government with tax funds or by private companies adding smaller free to their customer lots, or larger paid use lots or garages. If there is demand, there will be profit and incentive to do this. Government does not exist to make profit. Regardless, new parking space can be made any time and there is no cost to deliver it. New water cannot be made on deman

                    • by cduffy (652)

                      Regardless, new parking space can be made any time and there is no cost to deliver it.

                      First off, "can be made any time" is... not so clear. Hundreds of millions of dollars to build a garage, remember, and that's after acquiring the land (and in dense urban spaces, where parking demand is high, acquiring the land can be the most expensive part). Roads with high rises and expensive hotels aren't exactly cheap to widen either. Keep in mind, it's not the total amount of parking in the city that counts, but the

  • SF already charges an arm and two legs for parking downtown, and they want to collect more fees? If this gets out to SF residents, these guys may not want to wear their Streetline shirts when walking around town, and especially around cars with tickets on them.
    • by Megahard (1053072)
      If the rates are increased enough, eventually there will come a time when you will be able to find a parking spot.
      • by SkimTony (245337)

        Incidentally, city officials (from various cities) have give parking turnover as the primary reason to have parking meters, and to charge as much as they do.

    • by Fnord666 (889225)

      SF already charges an arm and two legs for parking downtown, and they want to collect more fees?

      I guess Steve Austin must have been one of their early customers.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @04:54PM (#37545798) Journal

    ...that far from increasing revenue, this will be a money pit and will never work quite right? That it'll start out a stellar idea, but in implementation, as more and more people and companies get connected to the project, it drowns in cost overruns and performance shortfalls? A strong mayor will pull the plug at some point and go back to meter maids. A weak mayor will see it through, ending up paying several times the cost for less than what he started with.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "It's not just a parking spot, think of it as a 'revenue-producing asset,' says Vinodh Swaminathan, IBM's director of intelligent transportation systems. Working with San Francisco-based startup Streetline, IBM has launched a system designed to help cities ease parking congestion and collect more parking fees.

    Hi Vinodh. All municipalities already do. They have more 'revenue-producing assets' like red-light cameras, speeding cameras, etc. This is why you get business areas where the big box stores make sure there is plenty of free parking. The little retailer downtown, that usually isn't able to keep up the same pricing level, is only saved by people that have to be there anyway or are that dependent on public transportation.

    That aside, I was in a city in Germany (Trier or Cologne, not sure which it was) that had

    • That aside, I was in a city in Germany (Trier or Cologne, not sure which it was) that had a system where they had displays around time that indicated how many spaces were available in a number of downtown parkades.

      Cologne has had these for at least 25 years. By now every city has them. They simple count vehicles going in and out at the bar and compute the number of free spaces.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @05:07PM (#37546008)
    Posting Anonymously because we evaluated a very similar system with IBM. We evaluated a very similar sounding system from IBM. When we looked at it best case after roll-out costs we were just shy of breaking even worst case we were big time in the hole. IBM's solution to the dollar gap was raising hourly parking rates, drastically raising fines, or automatically collecting fines. Raising rates wasn't an option because it's not easy to get rate raises past city council because raising rates mean a chance of not being re-elected and if we were just going to raise rates, why not raise them and keep all the money. Raising fines was also a big issue but more tolerable then raising rates, see the city council again, but raising fines also causes other issues, because there are other fines not related to parking which we have to make the good faith effort of keeping in line, for example the fine for parking in the wrong spot shouldn't be more than the fine for smashing someones windshield. It puts us in a situation where we would need to start reevaluating all of our fines, and since we're an old city with tons of old laws it's a serious undertaking, and yes I know we should clean up our books, but that's a serious undertaking. Automatically collecting fines or generating tickets got ruled out almost instantly. We viewed this as even more trouble than the red light camera issues we went through. Plus when we put sanity rules around an automatic alert we found our parking authority agents responded faster then the system 90+% of the time. The spot empty features don't work well either. Our meters already do a spot empty check to clear existing funds out of the meter when someone leaves. After a couple months the majority of sensors no longer work, gum stickers, grime etc always mess it up to the point it's unreliable. The response time IBM claimed to updating spot availability was on the order of a couple minutes. No spots stay open in city center where we have the majority of our meters that long. So spots would only be advertised as open a period of time after they had been filled. Every other year IBM comes and tries to sell us on some Smarter City initiative, smarter parking, smarter traffic, smarter blah blah blah. Every time we look at the numbers it works to be break even at best and a big cost at the worst, except for IBM who would make a fortune in either scenario.
    • by rayzat (733303)
      This sounds so very IBM. How can I help you help me make money.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I think that this applies to many machines that replace human workers. You can employ a (reasonably) intelligent human for ~$30k/year. They are friendly, exercise judgement in exceptional cases, and generally work very well. A machine and the associated infrastructure cost several years wages each, and it's yet to be proven that there's any cost savings at all to be had in the long run. Not to mention that you are now left with the societal problem of figuring out how to retrain and employ the displaced wor
      • by rayzat (733303)
        I've often wondered if it time we really need to start thinking about a shorter work week or more vacation time. For the longest time we always had a labor shortage, of varying degrees, where is we automated one job, there was another area that would sink those people, or a large chunk of them. Today, where are those people going to go? I read an article about a power company switching to smart meters that would automate meter reading and they were planning to lay off some 8000 meter readers. They're ob
      • by Dr Max (1696200)
        If it's so easy to hire an intelligent, friendly human who exercise good judgment why do we fill police stations with wankers. On a more serious note this is only the start of the robot revolution when the industrial revolution started people were saying the same thing, no machine can match an experienced trained craftsman, and I’m sure the first factories were plagued with problems. Also

        they can't simply shrug off their responsibility to the society that has allowed them to flourish.

        Wanna bet, apple was given all their first IP for free. Now how much ip have they given away to garage start ups

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      I think you hit at the problem exactly with the cycle of thinking on rates vs fines.

      In the end, its just an extension of the failed attempts to control a problem of social attitudes and infrastructure investment, with the wrong tool for the job.

      If there are so many cars, there should be places to park them. The answer is really to look into how you get people using other transportation OR provide ample parking. Seriously, its a failure to plan upfront. An understandable one but... that is what is really bei

    • by madajb (89253)
      Our meters already do a spot empty check to clear existing funds out of the meter when someone leaves.

      This is a serious dick move. Seriously. Just a dick move.
      • by jquirke (473496)

        Our meters already do a spot empty check to clear existing funds out of the meter when someone leaves.

        This is a serious dick move. Seriously. Just a dick move.

        Agreed. The meter is paid, who cares who paid for it? Stop double dipping.

        Though on the topic of dick moves, the US has it pretty easy. Look for these vermin (The Melbourne City Council) are up to:

        http://www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/AboutCouncil/MediaReleases/Pages/NewparkingtechnologyforCityofMelbourne.aspx [vic.gov.au]

        In ground sensors - a device that records when a vehicle moves in and out of a parking bay. A five minute grace period will be built in and once a vehicle has overstayed the limit a signal will be se

    • by transami (202700)

      Get rid of the meters, they deter business. Ask local business, which need parking, to take on a local 1% sales tax and use the money to improve the area including the addition of parking lots.

  • Motorists looking for parking can take advantage of this data through a free Streetline free mobile phone application for the iPhone and Android. Called Parker, this app can alert users of nearby parking spaces. The cities can also expose the data for other third-party applications as well.

    This system is being debuted in California for you to use your smartphone to check park spot availability which is also where it is illegal to use your smartphone while operating a moving vehicle.

    This will also result in 'race conditions' whereby 50 people all get a text message saying "Parking spot available at 3270 Embarcadero by Pier 39" and all will race to get there.

    • by PPH (736903)

      This will also result in 'race conditions' whereby 50 people all get a text message saying "Parking spot available at 3270 Embarcadero by Pier 39" and all will race to get there.

      Or I'll hack it and send messages to the effect that my block is full to keep 'my' space open.

  • It says it all right there. The units will know they space is occupied and whether or not it has been paid for.
    "You are in violation of Parking Enforcement Code #236. Tender payment immediately. You have 15 seconds to comply."

    In related news....
    Thank you for your service Meter Maid/Man. We now can collect revenue without the added overhead of ... you. You may now join the ranks of the jobless. Good Luck on your career transition. We are sure you will find another position that allows you to aggravate regul

  • Two cars fighting for the same parking place? Hold an short instant auction; the highest bidder gets the space. Hey, think of it of a tax on people with too much money to spend on a good parking space. Maybe even offer B-Celebrity, A-Celebrity and VIP spots for folks who like to flaunt their wealth?

    Oh, the poor? Well, I guess they'll just have to walk or take public transportation. Unfair? Yes, but it sort of fits into the way most societies work anyway.

    "I'm a doctor, Jim, not a 'revenue-producing a

  • Driver 1 rear-ends Driver 2 because he was using his iPhone to find a parking spot.
    Apps designed to be used behind the wheel shouldn't be made.
    • by werfele (611119)

      Apps designed to be used behind the wheel shouldn't be made.

      I heard a SF official interviewed about this, and the official position is that the intention is that you would check overall parking availability before you leave wherever it is that you were.

    • I could see that happening in Austin, TX of all places. It's next to fucking impossible to find a parking spot anywhere. In fact, the city has grown in population beyond intended scope. Too crowded for the motorist, and to a lesser extent, cyclists too.

  • Here in DC they should start by fixing the meters.
  • I could get behind this if, and only if, they released an app that you could use to 'top off' the meter if you were about to run out. Might want to cap the time you can stay in certain areas of course, but that would take it from the money grab it is into what I would consider something actually useful to the community.

  • I thought it was illegal to use your mobile phone while driving.
  • Parking meters are not suppose to be a source of income when they started. It has been twisted over the years. It was suppose to motivate people to use a limited resource(parking spots) as efficiently as possible. It motivates people to only use the space as long as they need it and not to just leave their car there. This idea has the same failings as red light cameras written all over it.
  • If there's more people who want spaces than there are spaces, an app which tells you what you already know isn't going to help. By the time it tells you about an available space, it will be gone, to the lucky driver who happened to be cruising by. Only ways to fix this problem are
    1) raise parking rates through the roof, until demand drops enough for supply to exceed it.
    2) Eliminate whatever it is that causes people to want to park there.
    3) Add more parking spots (e.g. garages and lots)

    Most city government

  • Vehicles equiped with Handicapped plates and placards are able to park in on the street metered parking without paying. There is nothing in this system as far as the RTFA states to take that into consideration.

    Raising fees would also lead one to believe this system will be tied in with SFPD's parking enforcement officers letting them know where to go to write tickets. This system will have them driving to every handicapped vehicle in the city needlessly since they are parked in a metered space without pa

    • by number17 (952777)
      In my city, the merc's and bmw's with handicap signs don't tend to park in legal parking spots. They park wherever they want.
  • Is that what it means to have a 'more intelligent planet', to game the nanny state? Glad I park my Tahoe in my 3 car garage.
  • Another reason to use public transportation when available. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. If it can be abused by vandals or the authorities it will,...in time.
  • I thought parking meters were bad for business - people don't want to pay, so instead of parking and shopping downtown, they drive out to the malls and Walmarts, Targets, KMarts etc.where parking is free. This leads to shops closing in the inner city.

    • by adeft (1805910)
      Some stores have good enough beer and food to warrant me kicking a couple quarters in a parking meter. I can't think of any other thing I would pay a premium to have the privelage to buy. Anything that is a mass produced product (clothes, drumsets, notebooks) does not warrant a stop in a small town with parking meters.

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