The City of Westminster, one of London’ s local councils, has started to embed the first of 3,000 sensors into the streets. Each sensor in the ground detects when a car is parked on the street above it. They will be in the ground by the end of March, making London the world’ s first major city to adopt the long-heralded “smart parking’ revolution.
The idea is simple. According to the council, motorists spend an average of 15 minutes searching for a space in Westminster’”which with Parliament, the main shopping district, and dozens of tourist sites, has a legitimate claim to be the heart of London. If drivers know where the empty spaces are, they won’ t have to cruise the streets looking for one.
Westminster has 10,000 parking bays that visitors can use (plus more for residents only). The first phase of the program will see 3,000 sensors, each with a battery life of five to seven years, installed in visitor bays in the most congested areas of Westminster, which include Mayfair, Soho and the theater district, at cost of £650,000 ($1.07 million). Based on the results, the council will probably expand the program to the other 7,000 bays that visitors can use.
The list of benefits is long: Apart from reducing traffic, fuel consumption, and emissions from cars, it boosts the local economy as people spend more time in shops, restaurants and offices rather than on the street.
Kieran Fitsall, the parking services development manager for the council, says that the data will ultimately be fed into London’ s transport information network, so when commuters look up how to get into town, they’ ll be able to see driving and parking times just as they can now get train journey times and walking distances to stations. That could make London a model for other cities.