How many times have you had to drive around the block to find a parking space downtown? The City of Sacramento and Microsoft partner Amano McGann are testing new technology aimed at helping citizens find convenient, affordable parking and avoid traffic congestion, while increasing municipal productivity, efficiency and revenue.
Rohit Chande, senior vice president of engineering at Amano McGann, said their new Symphony Analytics™ software-as-a service solution is the first to provide traditional reporting and dashboarding functionality along with true predictive analytics. “It’s a game-changer,” said Chande. “Nobody in the (parking) industry is currently doing this.”
Azure-based digital transformation
Amano McGann’s breakthrough is an example of Microsoft CityNext’s dedication to empower cities to digitally transform through innovative, high-impact services. “Off- and on-street parking data comes from multiple sources within a city,” Chande explained, noting the challenge was in aggregating this information in real-time to help drivers find available space and cities to make informed decisions. “We decided to go with the Microsoft Azure cloud platform because it gives the scalability and flexibility required for yield management and dynamic pricing techniques—varying parking prices at different times of day, depending on demand.” This enables a city to offer bargain rates when parking facilities are relatively empty or to direct drivers to more affordable parking on the outskirts of downtown when major events are taking place—essentially the same approach hotels and airlines use to fill empty rooms or seats.
Chande noted cities worry about security and “how we are going to protect their data and who will have access to their data.” With Azure, “we can easily set their mind at ease,” given controls such as Azure Active Directory to make sure “the right people have the right level of access to the right data.”
As world leaders in manufacturing and distributing hardware and software for the parking industry, Amano McGann has worked with Microsoft technologies since the early 1990s and uses Azure as the cloud platform for its Symphony Analytics and Subscribe API service.
Comprehensive beta testing
Beta testing, which began this month, is a collaboration between Sacramento’s parking operations and IT departments, and reflects the city’s commitment to improve quality of life. “Real-time data allows us to maximize the efficiency of our parking facilities to enhance the user experience when choosing to park in our city,” said Matt Eierman, city parking manager for the City of Sacramento. “Managing our parking assets to their full potential allows us to balance the parking demand by giving our patrons multiple parking options. Keeping our parking facilities connected in real-time and offering unique services, such as our SacPark reservation system, streamlines the parking process and enhances the customer experience.”
The City of Sacramento will continue beta testing through July but it won’t end there: other cities, universities, airports and portfolios will also test the solution and provide feedback. “The idea is to prove this concept in different vertical markets before we launch the product for general release,” Chande said. General availability is expected later this year.
Productivity, efficiency, revenue
The extensive beta testing will measure the Amano McGann parking solution against existing metrics. The team anticipates productivity and efficiency gains of 15 to 20 percent for the City of Sacramento, based on the ability to better identify and staff peak parking demand times. Through improved yield management and dynamic pricing, they expect parking revenue to increase by 30 percent or more while significantly reducing traffic congestion and driver frustration. “The tolerance for the customer changes the longer they have to drive around (to find parking),” Chande said. “After dynamic pricing is implemented, along with clear directional messages … the customer could go straight to a parking spot they reserved in advance. This is where traffic congestion goes away.”
Joe Survance, Amano McGann’s senior vice president of marketing and business development, also envisions greater collaboration between city, state, regional authorities and privately owned and operated parking facilities. For example, if there are multiple events in the city center on a Friday evening, traffic congestion on the main highways and roads leading into and around the city will become an issue. “With a collaborative ecosystem we can quickly and efficiently move patrons to available public and or private parking with real-time guidance. Dynamic pricing will help patrons select garages while maximizing revenues and pre-paid reservations will speed through-put. This collaboration between public and private facilities is key to effectively managing congestion within a metropolitan area while at the same time addressing the needs of citizens. Additionally, parking patrons can take full advantage of available parking as well as multiple transportation sources with guidance to alternative options, such as bus, transit and ridesharing.”
Microsoft CityNext is excited about the potential to digitally transform in-city parking and traffic, resulting in a better experience for the public, and more efficient and effective local government operations. To learn more, please visit Amano McGann.