The Digital Transformation of the Smart City during Covid-19


This article is the third in a series about parking in a post COVID-19 world where hygiene and economics are of paramount importance. To see our last piece on congregation in car parks, click here.

This week’s article is about the digital transformation of the smart city during Covid-19 and what it means for the future of parking?

“Covid-19 accelerates the adoption of smart city tech to build resilience”

Recovering from crisis

Laptop showing graph

If there was ever a time when cities were in need of intelligent, innovative thinking, it’s now. Cities all over the world are having to recalibrate and work out how to serve the needs of its residents during this unusual time.

Local authorities all over Britain are recovering from severe financial impact as all cash-generating elements of the councils have paused for the duration of the pandemic. The £1.6 billion recently provided by the Government has helped ease some of the pressure on Local Authority services during the coronavirus crisis, but not all. The decision has also been made to allow councils to postpone business rates payments to central government and its move to pay care grants upfront will help councils with some of their immediate cash-flow pressures. However, there’s still a significant amount lost with no clear view on when and if that gap can be filled. What else can local authorities do to revive­ revenue generation safely moving forward?

The move to digital

Team of four working on laptops on a communal table

The move from physical to digital services has been a long time coming. However, some of these plans have been expedited during the coronavirus pandemic. Cash-based services provided by the council have migrated to cashless alternatives, and a large number of council workers will continue to adopt a work from home lifestyle as lockdown is eased. While it wasn’t the nudge that was expected, the move from physical to digital has been in the pipeline for a while.

This is by no means bad news, unlocking the councils digital potential during this challenging time has given a level of confidence in adopting wider digital services. More and more councils are launching their own digital arms, celebrating and encouraging all things digital. A great example of which would be Croydon’s very own Croydon Digital.

Micromobility and public transport

Electric scooter and electric bike on street

Contrary to decades of being advised the opposite, governments all across Europe are having to encourage people to avoid travelling by public transport where possible due to ongoing safety concerns. They are suggesting that people drive, walk, cycle or traverse the city using their own micromobility means, such as bikes and e-Scooters, where they are legal.

With buses and trams now running on almost empty some transport experts believe that car use is set to spike to unprecedented levels – in England shopping malls began to re-open on Monday 15 June inviting queues of hundreds of cars and thousands of people. Even accounting for the large percentage of new converts to the benefits of home working, the balance will be tipped back towards the private car over public transport. All those private cars will, inevitably, need to stop somewhere.

The future of parking

Car in outdoor car park with cityscape in the background

Discussions are being held around the removal of large numbers of on-street parking to make way for wider pedestrian paths and cycle lanes. Parking is being pushed from on-street into the surrounding car parking facilities. This puts enormous pressure on off-street car parks to be able to cater for the anticipated surge in traffic. This has created an opportunity for the parking sector to revolutionise the ways in which people park, and pay.

It’s important that councils heed the governments’ advice and ensure they’re maintaining a healthy and safe environment for city residents, and eventually, visitors. Meaning options available will need to go above and beyond its historical efforts. Cashless and touchless, services will need to be available for all people as well as sufficient socially distanced safety precautions put in place in all pedestrian hot spots.

Parking is an integral part of the smart city, and the flow of its traffic. By implementing smart parking solutions now, the parking sector is leading the way in the development of the smart city during this time, rather than following suit.


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