Intelligent mobility has become a popular phrase in thoughts and discussions around the complex and varied challenges faced by towns and cities in their quest to reduce journey times and traffic congestion in and around urban areas. Encouraging travellers onto public transport networks is one obvious solution with the added bonus of increased safety and reduced CO2 and noise pollution.

New paradigms for the way we plan and execute journeys must be set and the concept of mobility as a service (Maas) is gathering momentum. Travellers are encouraged to view and plan their journey as an end-to-end process integrating the constituent parts into one seamless mission. As with so many challenges faced both today and into the future, it is technology that will lead the revolution and generate the behavioural changes necessary to positively improve the urban environment.

“How to overcome difficulties and frustrations faced by drivers searching for a vacant space at multiple busy train station car parks?”

Transport for West Midlands, part of the West Midlands Combined Authority in the UK, provide a series of Park and Ride car parks at railway stations across their network. These sites serve as an interchange between road and rail transport systems, encouraging commuters away from roads and on to trains. However, this in itself presented a key challenge. How to overcome difficulties and frustrations faced by drivers searching for a vacant space at multiple busy train station car parks?

Drivers were arriving at Park and Ride car parks earlier and earlier in order to ensure they would find parking at their preferred car park. This hyper-congestion at peak times meant drivers headed to alternative car parks, parked on streets surrounding train stations and some would choose to drive directly to town and city centres.

Transport for West Midlands tried unsuccessfully to find an off-the-shelf solution to solve these problems, so launched a funded competition in conjunction with Innovate UK inviting tech companies to provide an innovative solution. Accelogress with the Save-a-Space solution won that competition and has been working successfully with TfWM ever since, with great results and positive user feedback.

Save-a-Space – Parking Personally Tailored For Your Needs

Save-a-Space created a bespoke cloud parking management solution, with a free-to-use end user app, which enables drivers to find and book available parking spaces at park and ride car parks across the Transport for West Midlands region.

Save-a-Space is a software platform based concept and the FIWARE Orion Context Broker is an important component within the Save-a-Space solution architecture. We leveraged Orion to flexibly collect real-time parking occupancy data from different sensor sources in the standardised NGSI format, which helps us to display this information to end-users. With the help of Cygnus we are able to easily store the data for further parking management analysis.

In Phase 1 of the project we created a real-time data pipeline were the Orion Context Broker enabled us to collect number plate information, over a period of more than six months, from entry and exit events at the car parks. We used the data to generate continuous management statistics of car park usage which provides TfWM valuable insight into car park user behaviour which will inform the best end-user solution.

Parking spaces are registered directly on the Save-a-Space platform and drivers can browse live train departures and parking availability information, then select the car park which best suits their journey and train departure time. They can reserve their parking space in advance, entering preferred length of stay, and pay all within the Save-a-Space end user app.

The Save-a-Space app automatically sends notifications reminding drivers of their bookings, together with reminders of start and end times. The app also offers the option to select mobile navigation to the pre-booked parking space. A reminder notification is sent when the reservation is about to expire and when the booking is complete. Users are also able to report any problems via the app and will receive assistance from our customer support advisor.

Car park occupancy information is relayed instantly to parking operators and enforcement via a dashboard allowing improved car parking management and targeted enforcement.

“Many commuters are choosing to catch later trains, helping to reduce the traffic congestion around peak times commonly experienced by commuters and distributing passengers more evenly across train services.”

More than 1000 people have signed up wishing to take part in the pilot scheme since its launch on 6 November 2017 and driver behaviour has already changed. Many commuters are choosing to catch later trains, helping to reduce the traffic congestion around peak times commonly experienced by commuters and distributing passengers more evenly across train services. User numbers have increased and Save-a-Space reserved parking spaces are now consistently at full occupancy. For users, stress has been removed from the morning commute and Transport for West Midlands has acquired in-depth occupancy analysis and insight in to customer behaviour.

Following the success of the initial deployment of the Save-a-Space parking management scheme, the solution has been extended with plans to include more spaces and additional car parks.

The Save-a-Space/Midland Combined Authority partnership supported by FIWARE is a live illustration of how innovation combined with existing infrastructure can lead transformative change and improve the Smart City environment.

Guest Post by Lorna Parris (Chief Operating Officer, Accelogress Limited)
Discover more about Save-a-Space in the FIWARE Marketplace.