Comment: Parking - the unlikely trailblazer for smart mobility


From the effective management of low emission zones, free flow tolling and congestion charging, to advanced data analytics and connectivity, the parking sector is not standing still when it comes to intelligent transport and smart mobility solutions, as Imperial’s managing director Ashley Bijster (pictured below) explains.

In one form or another, every local authority is grappling with the opportunities and challenges presented by ongoing developments in digital technologies. 

Nowhere is this more evident than in traffic management. The number of private cars on Britain’s roads has more than doubled over the past 40 years, compromising urban mobility, safety and accessibility not to mention the pressure on the budgets of highways departments.

In tackling these issues, parking has led the way in the delivery of new digital capabilities, self-serve functionality and connectivity and perhaps it is no coincidence that it is also one of the most sensitive, procedurally complex and highly regulated service areas. 

The general public - and regulators - will not hesitate to pounce on any service shortfall or error.

Parking solutions not problems 

In many instances, the adoption of end-to-end service solutions feature highly advanced self-serve platforms and a level of connectivity that fulfils the most challenging smart city service targets and overcomes even complex processing progression paths.

The benefits of such technology to motorists are considerable, not just in terms of convenience and immediacy, but also with improved flexibility and responsiveness.

Elsewhere, authorities like Watford Borough Council are continuing to capitalise on digital improvements and, here, the council’s parking services team is using new virtual solutions and highly responsive and intuitive self-serve platforms.

For example, the new arrangements have greatly simplified the registration, renewal and payment processes for parking permits in the authority’s seventeen Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs). They have also minimised back office administration and transformed the effectiveness of on-street enforcement, delivering much improved compliance levels to ensure residents reap greater benefits of CPZ restrictions.

'As an authority that has signed up for the Government’s Local Digital Declaration, the council’s vision is to be a customer-focused, digitally-enabled and commercially-minded service provider that is well-placed to take full advantage of innovative new technologies,' says Watford’s parking services manager, Justin Bloomfield.

'Establishing a direct and dynamic relationship with a specialist service provider is helping us fulfil such service transformation objectives and has set a new benchmark for the authority in digital service delivery. But it’s not a one-off exercise and a close working partnership will help to ensure we take full advantage of technological advances and continue to maximise ICT integration, connectivity and compatibility,' he added. 

'This approach is also providing an effective framework for us to feed off specialist expertise to explore new opportunities and develop our own ideas for service improvement.'

The wider network

Many of the technologies and service advances initially developed to meet the challenging legal, procedural and customer service requirements of a parking services team have evolved – and continue to evolve – to deliver proven and highly versatile solutions in many other areas of traffic management.

As a result, the effective and efficient management of clean air zones and low emission zones or the introduction of congestion charges and free flow tolling programmes do not need to be leaps of faith.

Proven and highly versatile permit management systems provide fully integrated and end-to-end service solutions for local authorities and traffic management teams.

Capable of providing highly sophisticated and responsive authorisations based on a multitude of increasingly complex qualifying criteria, today’s permit management solutions provide dynamic pricing options, effective toll/permit enforcement as well as reliable and responsive payment processing.

In a similar way, the processing software for parking enforcement successfully accommodates a multitude of variables and contravention codes. The practicalities of delivering the relatively simple vehicle classification required for free flow tolling as well as low emission and clean air zones is, therefore, very straightforward.

Equally, the focus on customer satisfaction and first contact resolution in parking has been achieved despite a bewildering array of legislation and has led to very high and sustained customer satisfaction scores.

It also gives motorists the assurance of reliable self-serve registration and payment platforms that are available 24/7 to provide maximum convenience for the user.

The cashless, electric future?

Of course, in any commentary on technology, we can’t ignore the prevalence and popularity of smart phones and the growing trend for cashless transactions.

Even here, the parking sector has for many years led the way in mobile apps and cashless payment solutions. There are now apps to help motorists pre-book, pay and locate convenient parking places to make the life of motorists easier and to minimise their impact on urban congestion and air quality issues.

Take the example of the growth in electric vehicles and the need to optimise accessibility and occupancy for the ever-increasing number of EV charging points. The risk of difficulties is very real as there could be little scope to ensure fairness and accessibility to prevent abuse of the facilities, suggesting a need for integrated platforms similar to parking solutions. 

In a similar way, the service proficiencies and real-time data management capabilities of monitoring technologies such as CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems have helped to transform both user convenience and compliance in the parking sector.

There is no doubt that the level of automation and service benefits presented by ANPR will see a continuing increase of its deployment across all areas of urban transport management.

The automated vehicle identification process also provides invaluable insight and data to show what types of vehicles are entering the designated areas of a city. So too do parking guidance systems and other Mobility as a Service solutions that advise motorists of available parking spaces and the best alternative route or transport option.

Aside from helping a local authority to determine the most appropriate charging structure for those vehicles having the greatest impact on air quality in the city, such real-time and crowdsourced data also allows an authority to monitor traffic trends and behaviours.

Automatically capturing and analysing such data provides critical insight to ensure more informed decision-making and to deliver intelligent transport solutions that are constantly finely-tuned to reflect evolving priorities and target outcomes.

So, far from being a peripheral service area, the parking sector should be seen as something of an unsung hero that’s paving the way for more effective and ambitious digital transport management programmes.

Highways jobs

Team Leader - Transport Planning

North Yorkshire County Council
£42,683 to £46,503 plus relocation support
Do you have a proven track record in Transport and Planning at a senior level? Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Environmental Health Officer (Food, Health & Safety) & Environmental Health Technical Officer

Dacorum Borough Council
£24,710 to £39,034
You will be highly motivated and be expected to deliver against a challenging work plan. London (Greater)
Recruiter: Dacorum Borough Council


Cambridgeshire County Council
£33,153 - £35,755
As an Engineer, you will be required to lead the delivery of a wide range of highway improvements and maintenance projects to deliver... Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Highways Projects Technician

Cambridgeshire County Council
£18,795 - £21,166
Looking for strong team players interested in working with a variety of professional and community partners across Cambridgeshire and... Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Assistant Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£21,589 - £31,371
Looking for strong team players interested in working with a variety of professional and community partners across Cambridgeshire and... Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Traffic Management Group Manager

Devon County Council
This is an exciting time for the Service with the immediate introduction of a new Permit scheme and significant programme of redesign and... Devon
Recruiter: Devon County Council

Ecological Consultant

Essex County Council
£22000 - £25000 per annum
Closing date
Recruiter: Essex County Council

Senior Engineer (Street Lighting & Furniture)

Hackney London Borough Council
£39,543 - £44,373
The role requires an individual who can demonstrate a track record of project and contract management relating to... Hackney, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Hackney London Borough Council

Highways Engineer

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£31.548 - £33.291
You will be part of a wider team all focused on delivering a first class service.   Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Asset Management Technical Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£33,122 - £38,423
You will be responsible for providing technical support, including user support, identifying and implementing improvements and... Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Environmental Improvement Officer

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£29,636 - £33,799 per annum
We have an exciting opportunity to recruit to the position of Environmental Improvement Officer within Regulatory Services. Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Legal Officer - Planning and Highways

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£26,999 - £29,636
Kirklees Legal Services is one of the largest legal practices in the area and carries out and commissions legal work required by the Council Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Road Safety Engineer / Road Safety Auditor (all levels of experience)

TMS Consultancy
By negotiation
Purpose of the Job Depending on individual experience, candidates will be involved in a range of road safety engineering and traffic management pro... Coventry
Recruiter: TMS Consultancy

Senior Technical Officer

Newport City Council
£30,507 - £33,799
We are pleased to be seeking individuals to fill a new Senior Technical Officer post within Highways.    Newport (Casnewydd)
Recruiter: Newport City Council

Senior Technical Officer

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£24,799 - £29,636
The successful candidate will feed into the planning process, assessing applications in accordance with the... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Technical Support Officer

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£21.591 - £25.809
Using your administrative and communication skills to the full, you’ll provide invaluable support across our busy Directorate.  Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Assistant Tree Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£25,880 - £27,904
Looking for an assistant tree officer to join a busy Tree Section working with the most up to date arboriculture equipment’s and IT resources.   Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Green Space Partnership Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£30,066 - £34,538
You will have excellent written and presentation skills including experience of preparation of reports, briefings, minutes of meetings and... Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Parking Projects Manager

Brent Council
£45,585 - £48,482 p.a. inc.
As Parking Projects Manager, you will be responsible for leading the delivery, to time and budget, of key parking projects... Wembley, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Brent Council

Parking Operations Officer

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£19,554 - £21,166
Are you a hard-working individual, who enjoys working outdoors in all weather conditions? Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue
  • Highways England at Westminster
  • Traffex Scotland and Bridges Scotland guide
  • Highways Awards winners
View the latest issue

Latest Video