A couple of weeks ago we spoke with Ronald de Jong, team leader and parking coordinator at the municipality of Alphen aan den Rijn. We talked about parking policy, various trends and developments within the parking industry in both Alphen aan den Rijn and the Netherlands.

From a driver’s perspective, what does the ultimate parking experience look like?

The ideal situation would be when you can see on your route planner app where the most convenient parking space is, what it costs and whether there is space available. Even better would be if you could reserve a spot through the app, all being monitored with your license plate. So, you are guided from home to the place you want to visit. 

How far do you think the Netherlands has progressed with this kind of user experience?

We already have this type of technology. A European tendering procedure for two plots has been carried out by ParkeerService. Plot one is about parking equipment, and plot two is about challenging the market with developing new inventions. Conceivably we would be purchasing a system where people can reserve a parking space digitally, pay and when they arrive at the gate, they get recognized and can drive in, to park their car. Technically, this is all possible, but it is costly, which is why it has not happened yet.

How are costs typically structured for these projects?

The bulk of the costs is the SLAs. The initial purchasing costs are a small part of the total costs. However, for a municipality, a one-off investment is easier to realize than structural money.

Which innovative solutions have you tried, and which are you still considering?

We do already have the camera surveillance, real-time counting loops and basically also the automatic parking garage. We have five locations with a parking gate, which is being managed by ParkeerService from a single location. Only when disruptions occur, we have to intervene. Reserving a parking spot is something that we do not have. We do already have mobile payment on the street, and we are working on implementing this in the garages as well.

A scan-car is something that we are working on, as well as on parking sensors. Smart parking sensors are currently too expensive for our situation. We have a parking policy, where all the costs and income of paid and licensed parking come together, and it is making a loss. This means that, as of now, we see investments in products like parking sensors not as our first priority. The losses have to be covered, and that means that you cover it from the general resources, which is money that the municipality is able to spend freely.The city council would prefer that the parking costs would be self-covering.

What is currently happening around parking in Alphen aan den Rijn?

We are working on developments within the city center. As a lot is being built, parking spaces near the shopping center have been removed. To compensate for this, a parking garage is being made. More parking spaces will come, but there is still a high parking density in the city center and no physical space to make a parking lot. The residents see this as a problem, as they can no longer find a parking spot for their car. In several streets, there is a parking density of more than 100%, which means that some people park their car in the wrong place.

The building regulations state that you have to provide for your own parking needs. In the city center, this obligation is often bought off, after which the municipality will commit itself to realizing that parking space. However, even the municipality’s options are limited with given space constraints.

We have a hard time coping. Various solutions come to mind. For example, just let parking density increase. This may make people reevaluate their options when considering a car purchase. Another option is to adjust the parking policy and issue a maximum of 1 parking permit per home. You could even go as far as buying a block of houses, breaking it down and building a parking lot.

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What experiments did you carry out for parking in Alphen aan den Rijn?

We did a pilot with a scan car at the end of 2016. This showed that we were not yet digitized enough to work with a scan car. The permit parking policy has now been changed and will take effect on June 1. From that moment Alphen will be 100% digitized, as of which, a scan car should work. When looking at the blue zones and paid parking zones, the rate is a bit more expensive on the street, than it is in the garages. We are also working on paying per minute, which, with a mobile phone, is done very quickly. As of June 1, this will be implemented for all parking meters and garages. Lastly, there are no prejudices for electric cars.

Do you think that self-driving vehicles will have a lot of impact on parking?

That is difficult to estimate, but personally, I am convinced that as people prefer to steer and drive around by themselves, it will have no impact on parking. If the demand for cars remains, I don’t see the regular cars disappearing, neither do I expect people to share their cars. There still is a national growth in the number of cars in the foreseeable future, which means that we can’t stop building parking garages.

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