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Taking the pain out of parking problems
By Liang Yu (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-12 11:52

SHANGHAI: The local transportation authority is planning a citywide parking information service platform aimed at providing driver friendly assistance for people in need.

Through facilities featuring a parking guidance system wired to the Internet and local telecommunications services, drivers will have less difficulty finding parking places.

By employing this system, the establishment of local parking lots can perhaps be achieved, which is expected to lead to a more orderly traffic flow, said officials.

"We are conducting initial studies on such a citywide platform," said Chen Lianggui, an official with the Shanghai Urban Transport Administrative Bureau.

"Through such a project, we expect to further streamline our supervision over local parking facilities while adding more public service functions."

Management model

Projected to be operational in 2010, the platform highlights an intelligence management model of parking facilities that will be linked to a larger network, according to Chen.

While drivers will be able to access electronic displays that show the availability of parking spaces around their destinations, they will also be able to access information in advance through the Internet or even their mobile phones.

Parking-related complaints and consultation can also be handled via the web.

According to Chen, the downtown Huangpu District has already set up a pilot parking guidance system. It features more than 60 electronic boards installed around the district's 30-plus locations and covers 5,900 slots in the area's nearly 40 parking facilities.

While the local transportation authority earlier launched a technical standard that lays out related specifics regarding the parking guidance system's construction, several other districts are also trying to establish similar systems, a key part in the forecast for a citywide service platform.

In a related development, the city's transport authority is working on a new regulation on the supervision of parking facilities, and public input is being solicited before the regulation is forwarded for approval.

Official statistics indicate that by the end of last year, Shanghai had over 1.5 million vehicles, including 800,000 automobiles and 700,000 motorcycles. The total is expected to exceed 2 million by 2010.

Parking slots

Meanwhile, there are about 490,000 registered parking slots now available in the city, among which nearly 123,000 belong to the city's public parking facilities. The rest are temporary roadside parking spaces and slots scattered around local neighbourhoods.

While the construction of public parking facilities needs to be accelerated to meet the city's growing traffic needs, how to make best use of existing facilities is also a tough issue, experts said.

Lack of an exclusive supervisory body as well as a unified regulation, coupled with backward management skills and operation mechanism, has resulted in many parking-related complaints, especially from drivers who find it difficult to park their cars in downtown areas.

"The city-level parking information service platform will be valuable as it will help reduce the unbalanced use of local parking facilities," said Chen Xiaohong, vice-dean of the Transport Engineering School. "The platform sounds interesting, but I guess the real challenge is the insufficient parking slots available around the city," said Sunny Hu, a local office employee. "That may require much more effort to tackle."

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