Efficient and Ubiquitous Resource Allocation - Can Smartphones Improve Urban Traffic Flow Associated with Numerous Cars Searching for Parking Spaces?
Daniel Fiechter, University Of St. Gallen, Thomas Sammer, University Of St. Gallen, Andrea Back, University Of St. Gallen
Parking bottlenecks are recognized as a major factor for traffic jams in urban areas. Requirements for an efficient parking allocation are identified and the study addresses the current situation in parking allocation.
Compared to residential and commercial properties, parking spaces demand a relatively large amount of physical space, as Europe’s 257 million cars (ACEA, 2009) spend 95% of their time parked. Space in urban areas is especially limited in Europe, and this creates a high density of traffic associated with parking. Parking bottlenecks are recognized as a major factor for traffic jams in urban areas. These traffic jams raise several issues concerning environmental aspects and quality of life in urban areas. One way to improve this situation is to optimize the parking search process by planning and allocating parking space efficiently, which would lead to a reduction of traffic associated with searching for parking spaces.
Our work addresses this topic and therefore targets the following research questions:
1. Which requirements of an efficient parking allocation mechanism are insufficiently implemented at this time?
2. Are mobile applications able to bypass the missing requirements?
3. How should a system be structured to enhance parking allocation in the future?
To answer these questions, requirements for an efficient parking allocation are identified and the study addresses the current situation in parking allocation. Research shows that about 30% of a city's traffic results from searching for a parking spot. Searching occurs when needed information (i.e., where one can find an open spot) is unavailable. Analysis of the current situation shows that there are two options to regulate parking: time limits and parking fees. In addition to a lack of information, this leads to two further requirements for efficient allocation: searching for a parking spot is an urgent need, it has a time‐ and location‐dependency, and payment methods seem to be inconvenient at this time. We target this aspect of lack of information and assess current state-of-the-art parking systems, which include payment and allocation, based on the theory of the u-constructs.
The four information drivers of the u-constructs describe a perfection to strive for in the field of ubiquitous information availability. Junglas and Watson (2006) define the four information drivers as follows:
Ubiquity is access to information unconstrained by time and space, or accessibility combined with portability.
Uniqueness means knowing the precise characteristics and location of a person or entity. Uniqueness combines localization, identification and portability.
Universality describes the desire to overcome the friction of information systems incompatibilities. Examples are the drive for standards, or multi‐functional smart phones (e.g., phone, GPS, camera, PDA, media player).
Unison is information consistency, and includes ideas such as a single view of the customer and synchronization of calendars across devices.
Theory suggest that a system that implements these concepts leads to a superior solution. Using the u‐ constructs, we assessed the following parking systems as standardized cases:
• Parking meter system
• Parking deck, including a car-park routing system
• sms&park, a smart-payment parking solution
• P2P Parking, an enhancement and combination of smart-payment and e-parking systems
The results show that smartphone-based solutions raise the ubiquitous availability but do not solve the main problem. None of the introduced cases fulfill the requirements and the u-constructs completely. In particular, the universality concept is not achieved. The problem comes from encapsulated systems: each provider of a parking system has its own database of available parking spaces.
The central aspect of information asymmetry is therefore closely coupled with the need for a common database, which covers live data about parking spots. If future solution, which are may be even directly integrated in the existing navigation system of cars, should solve this problem, the major obstacle is the absence of a common data base.
We recommend that governmental agencies should start projects to make these data available and provide it as open data. Open data would create novel possibilities for applications that can potentially contribute to reduce urban traffic and therefore have a direct impact on environmental quality. Authorities should release a standard format, similar to the SWIFT standard for normalized information exchange in the banking industry. This builds the basic requirement to overcome the fragmentation of devices (universality). Another recommendation is that private or commercial parking spots should be available to P2P parking systems whenever they are not being used. This increases the number of total parking spots without building new ones; existing resources will be used more efficiently.
Association for European Transport