Hold That Spot! Bidding Algorithm May Be Answer To City Parking Woes

TEL AVIV, Israel — There is nothing quite as frustrating as endlessly circling city streets in search of a parking spot. Lack of parking is a major problem across various cities all over the world, and many policymakers seem to be out of ideas on how to solve the problem. Well, a team of researchers from Tel Aviv University say they may have found a solution: an algorithm that would allow drivers to bid on curbside parking spots.

Researchers believe their bidding algorithm would fill parking spots in less desirable areas and relieve most of the congestion in popular parking areas. The best part: drivers would be able to access the system and find parking spots through a convenient smartphone app.

“Urban parking prices are now uniform over large urban areas, but this doesn’t reflect neighborhood-specific supply and demand,” says lead author and professor at TAU’s Department of Geography and Human Environment Itzhak Benenson in a media release. “Underpricing results in long and often unsuccessful searches for parking in areas where demand exceeds supply, while overpricing leads to low occupancy and hampered economic vitality.”

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Benenson says that the geography-specific algorithm created by his team guarantees a “predetermined uniform level of occupation over an entire area.”

Many cities have already tried programs that adjust parking prices based on real-time availability, but these projects have been extremely costly due to the need to install pricey equipment and street sensors that end up costing millions of dollars. However, Benenson’s algorithm has already been successfully tested in the Israeli city of Bat Yam without installing any expensive equipment. During the test run, the algorithm was able to guarantee 90% parking occupancy.

“If the number of free spots in one specific area decreases, their price increases. So some of the spots are always vacant, because they end up being very expensive,” Prof. Benenson explains. “With adaptive prices, a driver who really needs to park close to a destination can now find a space. Any resulting economic inequity is resolved by means of special ‘free of charge’ permits or discounts. When you have an app that informs you about parking prices when you drive to your destination, you can resolve any number of parking and traffic issues.”

The research team say they are confidant that their algorithm is the urban parking solution of the future.

“This is a mechanism that can stop people from coming into the city centers and searching for a parking spot for hours on end; and nobody would be charged more than necessary. On-street parking is public property and should be managed as public property,” Benenson concludes.

The study is published in IEEE ITS Magazine.

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