A couple of weeks ago we spoke with Leon Baas, parking director at the municipality of Amstelveen. Leon told us about the latest parking developments in Amstelveen and the upcoming trends in the near future.
What do you think is the ultimate parking experience in the future?
The basis is, it has to become carefree. You get into your car, and you know exactly what to expect. People do not want to be surprised anymore, this does make them lazier, but that is what the new generation wants. Parking and traffic generate stress, so if you know where you can park in advance, you will not be bothered by it. “Parking is emotion.”
Which parking innovations are interesting for you now and in the future?
We soon want to do a trial at the town hall with parking sensors or a camera. This will depend on what is most financially interesting and future proof. That way we want to look at the busy, full, free options with which we are able to manage people better. You could even make a specific app for the municipality of Amstelveen. This would contain all the information that would guide you to your parking space, which is smart navigation.
As the residents prefer to have a known system, we think that a dynamic parking policy won’t work. We do believe that it is the future of parking, that the prices adapt to the crowds. But in Amstelveen, this is not necessary. Parking at the neighborhood shopping centers now costs €1.05, we will investigate if this can be lowered in the coming years, but we will first try to lower parking permits for residents furthermore. In the city center, it’s not possible to lower the parking tariffs, because we have an agreement with the garages. We will never have a lower parking tariff then the garages because we want the visitors to park in the garages.
It is our goal to keep the people inside the city center for as long as possible. We are able to manage this. Around the city center, we carry out a parking rate of €16,00. Here you always pay €16,00, for a maximum of 4 hours. That decision was made, because we want the residents and their visitors to park there. With this high tariff we want visitors of the shopping center to park elsewhere. It works. So, by giving the prices a specific rate, we are able to manage where we want the people to park. We keep the rates high outside so that they are pushed to the garages within the center, which are a lot less expensive. Dynamic pricing could work on the days around Christmas. These are the only days during a year when the garages are full and visitors of the shopping center park in the areas with a high tariff. We could then, for example, lower the prices of the surrounding neighborhoods in order to spread the parking density more evenly.
“Parking is emotion.”
Scan-vehicles is something that we are working on. In our case, this won’t be a scan-car but probably a scan-motorbike. We do this as we want our enforcers to be more visible. Every two years, we carry out a parking density research. With this research, we measure all the parking spaces in Amstelveen, which are around 80.000 spaces. If we were to carry this research out with the scan-motorbikes, we would get all this information in real-time. With this information, we want to start a more incident driven enforcement.
What are the long-term goals for parking policy at the moment?
We want to be the most progressive municipality in the field of parking. We were this already in 2014, 2015 and 2016 with our digitization of parking permits. After that, 20 municipalities came along to see how we had done this. We think a lot from the perspective of the resident.
Something that interests me are the parking machines. The parking machines are gradually going out of the streets. It seems that those machines run on Android, so you could even play games on them. However, you could also make an information point out of it, for example, with augmented reality. You would need to hold your phone in front of the machine, and the machine would then know it is you. With AR, it could show you, for example, the municipality’s alderman, giving you advice on where to park and what the parking policies are. This makes the distance between resident and municipality a lot smaller.
The first resident permit has been lowered from 100 to 40 euros a year. As a result of this, we now have the cheapest permits in the Netherlands. This was possible due to our “lean” (tight) organization. In Amstelveen, there are almost 5000 paid parking spaces. We use our resources very effectively and efficiently. We saw that the work was getting more difficult, so we digitalized a lot of things. Until 2014 we made a loss. From that point, we digitized all the parking rights. Of each type of permit, we now have a digital version. We are able to scan the license plate of a car and see which parking permit belongs to that car. Application, modification, and extension can all be done through our digital counter.We had set prices, but we soon found out that they were too high. Over the years we have lowered the price because we always came up with a surplus. This was mainly because the number of payments was constantly increasing. Amstelveen’s city center was featured well in the news because of the shopping center, and with the introduction of mobile payment more transactions were made. So, digitization has ensured that we now have at least a cost-effective parking exploitation.
“Policy is just a guideline.”
Did you have a good idea of what the investment into digitization was worth?
The intention of this digitization and the reversal of paid parking came directly from the city council. We had to give an indication that we needed 780K euros for parking machines, a city permits licensing system, and lots of other things. But, we expected that we would recover the costs within four years, which would make up for all of it.
If you were to convince the council, what would you have zoomed in on?
I would have shown them if it would be service-oriented, easy to use and cost-effective. In addition to this, I would have used the three pillars that we always use which are: increasing the accessibility, safety, and the liveability. We see these pillars as our parking values.
For us, providing a good service is of high importance. We always question ourselves, why do we do this. We do it for the residents, for the visitors, for the entrepreneurs. They suffer from those long-term parkers, the parking pressure of the Schiphol visitors. For those people we do it, and for those people we want to make the permit as cheap as possible.
What we have done, when keeping in mind to always provide an excellent service, we have created a tailor-made system. We always say: “Policy is just a guideline.”This way we can support the residents, for the visitors, for the entrepreneurs.
I think that the tailor-made system works well. We have seven permits in total, which apply to all the inhabitants. As of now, we have 5.000 paid parking spaces, but we expect this to increase to 20.000 spaces within 4 years. With the help of SmartCity, we are trying to inform ourselves as much as possible, to cope with that many parking spaces. We allow the residents to use direct debit in order to pay their permits. This way, they only have to visit us once. With the simplicity and straight facts, we make it clear and very easy for people to understand.