Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
A new generation of technology is driving crackdowns on ticket scofflaws and making it easier to find a parking space.
In Chicago, some parking enforcement vans are now equipped with specialized cameras that read the license plates of stationary vehicles, even if they're parked snugly together. The cameras link up to the city's "boot list" database of vehicles with several unpaid tickets. The new system allows city personnel to cover a lot more ground. Chicago is currently evaluating whether the costs of the new cameras are offset by personnel savings and expanded enforcement.
Santa Monica, California, on the other hand, has deployed new technology to combat a long-term source of frustration for city visitors and dwellers: the over-crowded self-parking garage. "You can be winding around those for 15 or 20 minutes," says Jory Wolf, chief information officer of Santa Monica. In November, the city placed "loops"--the same technology that signals to traffic lights when a vehicle is waiting--in the lots and garages it operates. The loops link up with a fiber-optic network, creating a running tally of how many vehicles are in each parking locale. These totals are broadcast on signs on city streets, so motorists in search of parking know which lots to avoid.
The totals also feed into a city Web site, http://parkingspacenow.smgov.net/, which maps in real-time how many parking spaces are available. The city hopes to provide the space availability information to cell phones and BlackBerry devices this summer.