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  • Writer's pictureMaximilian Mayer

Parking it right: How cities and operators can cooperate to make MaaS a success

Better cooperation can aid the long-term success of shared mobility

Parking and the associated fares and rules, are a major inconvenience for drivers. Because of this, the potential of carsharing to enjoy free-floating parking anywhere, is a major competitive advantage versus private ownership. Nevertheless it isn’t so simple for the operators. Parking regulations vary significantly from city to city and this can become burdensome to manage.

Examples of operators pulling out of cities because of conflicts with local authorities, show how important it is for operators and city governments to create a harmonious environment that allows carsharing to flourish. In the end, regulatory compliance is a cornerstone of a successful free-floating operation as it benefits all the stakeholders involved. At Parkbob we help educate users, cities and operators alike, to create and follow the rules that will shape the future of mobility to come.

Free-floating, a revolution in convenience

Carsharing is not a new phenomenon, but the rapid expansion of the free-floating sort is. Data driven and based on intelligent demand prediction models, free-floating carsharing allows for vehicles to be parked anywhere (almost). On the whole, governments see carsharing in a positive light. By decreasing car ownership, carsharing can help to alleviate major congestion challenges and is generally considered to be environmentally friendlier than mass private car ownership.

Seamless Parking

To reap the rewards of less congested and polluted cities, city governments should seek to provide a hospitable environment which supports the success of carsharing operations.

For free-floating carsharing projects to be successful, both providers and cities need to make efforts to provide a parking experience for users that is as seamless as possible. There are two key aspects to this:

  1. Users need to be able to park vehicles wherever there is a free space close to their destination.

  2. Users should not have to worry about parking tickets.

How Cities Can Help Operators

In order to promote carsharing, local authorities can work together with operators to increase its cost effectiveness in the city. A good example of this is Madrid, where carsharing services are allowed to drive in restricted areas and more importantly, are free from parking fees. According to ING, this has driven down the cost of car sharing and led to a high uptake in shared vehicles.

Other cities have similar policies whereby parking for carsharing operators is offered at a reduced rate or for free. In Germany for example the parking rules for free-floating carsharing are extremely favourable with parking heavily subsidised. The operator then pays for a yearly parking permit which entitles a vehicle to park in all public spaces across the city. In Philadelphia, U.S., there’s a similar scheme in place which the Parking Authority terms “meter revenue offset fees”. In providing special permits for carsharing, cities can make life significantly easier for operators.

An additional aspect, often overlooked, is the sheer complexity of different parking rules and regulations. Something that is even difficult for locals to grapple with. Cities can help drivers by reducing the complexity of their parking codes and many already do so. They do this by digitising their rules by providing and providing open government data. This helps companies like ours to develop solutions such as Rules and Restrictions API to decipher complicated regulations.

The flipside of favorable policies towards operators is that cities face the risk of antagonising local residents who worry about the selling off of public space and difficulties finding a parking space. Furthermore, in providing carsharing operators with lower parking costs, cities are relinquishing a major income source. In acknowledging the trade-off that cities have to make to accommodate carsharing, it is important that the operators follow the rules in return.

What is an operator to do?

Even when there are parking permits, this is not the end of the story. Often members incur fines which can be costly for the operators. Although they may seek to offset this by charging the members for their rule breaking, this comes with high administrative fees which can seriously eat into their margins. Furthermore, it results in a frustrating experience for the driver, who might choose a taxi the next time to avoid fines.

Although it is sometimes out of the operator’s hands, there are things that operators can do. In some cases the drivers simply park wherever because they are tired of looking for a space. In other cases they may just be confused about which rules apply to a particular curbside space. In both cases, Parkbob’s aforementioned context based rules engine can help. Parkbob transforms traffic codes and local policies into understandable parking suggestions. These can be used to educate users. In providing alerts which tell the driver if a vehicle is parked illegally or if a maximum parking duration is being exceeded, Parkbob’s Parking Ticket Buster supports operators in guiding the behaviour of users.

Some cities require operators to pay parking fees in full meaning that carsharing companies are required to report the number of transactions to local authorities in order to calculate the fees. This requires the permanent tracking of parking allowances and permits, alongside parking tariffs. Again Parkbob can help by enabling real-time reporting and aggregation of reports that are compliant with city requirements. In addition to saving costs and resources, this tool can be a great way for operators to negotiate with cities before rolling out their services.

It doesn’t stop at human drivers

At Parkbob we are also preparing ourselves for the onset of autonomous vehicles. In such scenarios where automated cars require a human brain in the last mile, our solutions will be able to guide vehicles to make the right decisions when assessing appropriate curbside actions. This applies to pick-up and drop-off scenarios as well as rules on lane usage at specific times. With its parking brain, Parkbob can make up for the missing human intuition and in doing so help to maintain compliance.

In the end, the only way to run a sustainable free-floating carsharing operation is by upholding the city rules and in creating a positive public perception. In supporting carsharing operators to do so, we at Parkbob help to create a balanced ecosystem which benefits the city, citizens and operators alike.


Maximilian Mayer is Head of Business Development at Ubiq. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.

Ubiq organizes the world’s curb-side data and transforms it into actionable information to enable better mobility decisions. Want to know more? Visit the services-section on our website or get in touch with us directly in order to explore the possibilities of a cooperation!

Follow Ubiq on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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