Mike Estey is the Manager of the parking programs at the Seattle Department of Transportation. We sat down with him at this year’s IPI conference to ask him where he thought the future of parking was heading and to get his opinion on the smart cities trend.
What does your day-to-day role look like?
The parking programs in Seattle have a lot of transportation planners, some work for us in the parking group: engineers, construction workers that do field investigations, and field technicians that monitor and maintain parking pay stations and the equipment. From making sure customers are receiving the best services, to considering policy proposals, we do quite a variety of things on a day-to-day basis.
How would you define a smart city?
Good question. From our perspective, we are using both data and technology to drive decisions that affect the policy outcomes we are trying to achieve. In Seattle, we have a performance-based parking pricing program. We set rates to achieve a specific objective — which is one or two available spaces per block space throughout the day. To achieve that, we need data to make those decisions, and technology to implement the data and the policy we receive.
We change rates annually in about 30 different paid parking areas throughout the city using data to change the rates up and down, according to what the data shows will be the most effective in achieving that objective.
What role do you see parking playing in a smart city?
I think we are in good shape right now. It’s hard to know what the future will look like obviously; technology changes rapidly. In the meantime, I think we should focus on collecting the right data, analyzing that data, and thinking about what it means to us as a public agency and to our customers.
With all the technologies and new things coming out, it’s thinking about how we make sure we’re bringing things together… from a technological perspective, in terms of a world where parking plays in mobility, with mobility as a service, and how we integrate shared vehicles and shared mobility in how we manage public spaces and parking.
What are the current trends that you’ve been watching in the evolution of parking?
The International Parking Institute (IPI) has done surveys on this, and the advancement of technology is the trend that we are seeing. Technology is an asset on the street to all the things people do on their smartphones as mobile customers. As a public municipal agency, our challenge is to try to keep up with that. We want to be in front of the curve, but not too in front. Most importantly, we’ll need to be progressive, innovative, and thinking about what the near future is going to look like and how we can best serve our customers in a landscape where technology is changing rapidly.
What is your prediction for parking in the next five to 10 years?
There are things in the individual and general sessions being discussed here at the IPI conference like, “What will the future look like?” It’s hard to know. In an urban environment like Seattle, we need public ride-aways to be efficient. We are putting in more bicycle and transport facilities that take up a lot of parking space. It then becomes a matter of not just where you park the vehicle — because a lot of that can happen off street—but where do you pull up commercial vehicles to load and unload if you are using the lot of a ride-away for other services.
For us, it is figuring out how to account for the boom in shared mobility services and how to manage those emerging services in the public ride-away effectively to better serve the public.