Transport / Taipei Parking Information Guidance System
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In 1998, the city of Taipei established the Taipei Parking Information Guidance System to inform drivers of real-time parking-space availability. The system reduces the traffic congestion caused by circling and queueing cars, while drivers can save time and fuel, cutting emissions. The system has reduced the average car-parking search time by almost 10 minutes.

Context and policy overview

Taipei is a commercial hub accommodating vehicles from city dwellers and daily commuters from adjacent areas. During peak hours, holidays and busy travel times, drivers often need to circle the city to find a parking space. In the city’s downtown and commercial zones, driving around and queueing to find a parking space became a daily chore: drivers wasted time and fuel, worsened traffic congestion and polluted the air.

Implementation

In 1998, therefore, the Taipei City Parking Management and Development Office (PMDO) piloted the first Taipei Parking Information and Guidance System in the city’s downtown area. The system provided drivers with dynamic and real-time information on parking space availability.

Since then, the PMDO and the Department of Transportation have promoted the system citywide, while also adding more digital features to the system to improve the driver experience. Building on the system, the city aims to achieve four main objectives:

  • Provide integrated information on availability in carparks in busy or congested areas.
  • Reduce undesirable effects, including excessive emissions, traffic congestion and time-wasting caused by queueing or circling.
  • Increase the occupancy rate of current carparks to boost revenues per lot.
  • Leverage systemic data to formulate better parking-related policies in future.

1. Technical framework

Phase 1. Pilot projects (1998-2006)

The installation of the information system was outsourced in full. International Integrated Systems, Inc. (IISI) won the pilot-project tender[1] with a bid of €737,000 (TWD 29.47 million) to install the system in 39 public and private parking lots. In 2006, the expansion of the plan was also outsourced, at a budget of €457,000.

Phase 2. Expansion projects (2006-2010)

Between 2006 and 2010, the PMDO embarked on an upgrade of both the system’s hardware and software. On the hardware side, changeable message signs (CMS) came into use, replacing conventional light-emitting diode (LED) display panels and providing real-time parking-space availability. Thanks to the CMS, drivers were able to gain an overview of availability in parking lots within a radius of 3-6 km.[2] Cashless ticketing systems were also introduced to reduce queueing time, so drivers could simply pay with a digital card and not clog up exits. In addition, all public carparks were required to install cameras or sensors, allowing information on availability to be updated dynamically.

With regard to software, since 2008, the parking information and guidance system has been integrated with another intelligent transport system, known as the Advanced Traveller Information System (ATIS). The platform collects a wide array of transportation information. Road users consult the ATIS website to obtain real-time car-parking availability, regardless of their location. The website uses red, yellow and green indicators to show the availability of parking spaces (for example, if a parking lot is marked red, then there are few or no vacancies).

The PMDO budgeted €5.22 million to expand the parking information system to all 12 districts in Taipei; €4.31 million of that was used to set up the CMS display panels.[3] By 2010, a total of 129 CMS boards covered 150 publicly owned off-street carparks, comprising around 52,000 parking spaces. Drivers can also enquire about availability using an audio inquiry phone system.

Phase 3. Smart parking (2010-2020)

Between 2010 and 2020, the PMDO offered a mobile app that integrated public and certain private parking-lot information. It allowed users to check parking-space availability, plan their travel itinerary and pay parking fees online.[4]

However, inviting owners of private parking lots to participate in the parking information and guidance system posed a significant challenge. For reasons such as business confidentiality, privacy and a lack of hardware/software interoperability, private parking lots were often reluctant to provide information on parking-space availability, rendering the systemic information incomplete.

2. Policy framework

  • Interoperability

Interoperability is an important factor to consider when planning and operating a parking information and management system. When Taipei first rolled out the system, its communication protocols for intelligent transport systems were not yet in place, complicating the standardisation of hardware and software processes in different carparks. On realising the problem, from 2011, the Department of Transport and the PMDO put in place standard communication protocols and requirements for hardware and software to regulate the types of technology used. They also solicited advice from consulting firms, industrial unions and tech suppliers to ensure transparent standards. These standards created a level playing field, in which carparks and suppliers fully understood what the city needed to compete fairly in tenders.

  • Engaging the private sector

Encouraging private parking lots to incorporate the common system was no easy feat. Two barriers dissuaded them from installing the system. First, before the communication protocols were published, private parking lots were in the dark as to what hardware/software met city requirements. Second, they were reluctant to reveal information on their occupancy rate as they perceived it to be an issue of business confidentiality.

The city government set open standards to achieve interoperability and offered open APIs (or public application programs) to meet the first challenge, enabling private parking lots to join the system without technical barriers. In addition, it gave clear indications as to the information required when working with the city government and what should be done if they wanted to uninstall the system.

Second, to ease companies’ concerns about revealing their occupancy rates to competitors, the system adopted three-coloured indicators as a means of showing parking-space availability rather than how many spaces were left. Drivers can only see the number of spaces left when they near the carpark.

In terms of incentives, the city government has offered a 50 per cent discount on parking-lot licences for those who adopt the parking information guidance system.

  • Use of revenues

Revenues generated by parking lots equipped with the system go towards maintaining the system and subsidising public transport, including buses.

The PMDO spent an average of €300,000 on hardware and software maintenance.[5] Aiming to promote the use of public transport, the city government subsidises bus operators, enabling them to recoup operating costs while offering affordable bus rides to the public.

Barriers and critical success factors

Convincing private parking operators to embrace the parking information and management system has been the main barrier encountered by the city. First, the private operators must comply with the technical standards for both hardware and software, which involves extra operational costs. Second, private operators are concerned about revealing confidential information on occupancy rates.

Financial incentives and non-financial measures matter play a key role in grappling with these issues. The city government has subsidised operators who agree to install the system. It has engaged in discussions with multiple stakeholders from the private sector with a view to establishing the requisite technical standards. The latter has ensured that the standards are open and feasible for all parties operating, maintaining and updating system data.

Results and lessons learned

Today, the Taipei Parking Information Guidance System provides real-time availability information on 1,887 public and private carparks and 6,700 roadside parking spaces. The average search time for a parking space has fallen by nine minutes in the downtown Xinyi district, and 92 per cent of drivers say that the system has helped them find parking spaces more effectively. The turnover of kerbside parking has doubled and drivers have said it is far easier to find a parking space. In certain neighbourhoods, the [annual average?] revenue per parking space increased from TWD 36,820 in 2006 to TWD 47,740 in 2017 in standardised parking-fee terms, as occupancy rates had risen.

The website and mobile app have also met with considerable success. Cumulatively, the website has recorded more than 6 million users, while the app has been downloaded more than 190,000 times.

Cities interested in developing such a parking information and guidance system can learn from Taipei’s experience:

  • Interoperability is a key component of any parking information and guidance system. It allows the city government to maintain both equipment and software efficiently.
  • Setting open standards is essential to ensuring interoperability. They serve as a reference point not only for system suppliers, but also parking lots interested in adopting the system.
  • In addition to roadside display panels, other tools, including websites, mobile apps and audio inquiry lines, should be put in place to facilitate the user experience and increase accessibility.
  • Parking information and guidance systems boost occupancy rates and raise revenues. City governments ought to consider how to allocate the revenue to promote green transportation.

References

[1] International Integrated Systems, Inc. (IISI) (n.d.) “Parking Information Management Solutions.” Available at: http://www.iisigroup.com/Solutions/Tra-park.

[2][3] Ministry of Transport and Communications (2006) Annual Transportation Report 2006. Taipei. Available at: https://www.motc.gov.tw/ch/home.jsp?id=21&parentpath=0,7.

[4] Ministry of Transport and Communications (2010) “Annual Transportation Report 2010.” Available at: https://www.motc.gov.tw/ch/home.jsp?id=21&parentpath=0,7.

[5] Taipei City Parking Management and Development Office (n.d.) Budget Report. Taipei. Available at: https://pma.gov.taipei/News.aspx?n=5430F3DDD6A9D2C5&sms=2F001C6D4199688B&page=1&PageSize=20.