When the City of Walnut Creek in San Francisco’s Bay Area completed their installation of Frogparking’s smart city platform in early 2020, the City knew they were getting a proven smart-city solution.
After a comprehensive study into the viability for the City, Traffic Engineer Smadar Boardman, knew the benefits of reliable space-by-space on-street sensors. Benefits like being able to reduce congestion with accurate parking guidance, live data on parking trends, more efficient enforcement, and building up a database of historical parking data to compare year on year trends.
What no one could have predicted, however, would be how the outbreak of the COVID19 virus would affect every part of the way we do things.
Ultimately the outbreak of the virus has lead to major changes in the way on-street kerbside space, traditionally used for parking, is currently being used in the City of Walnut Creek as part of the response. With a shelter-in-place order across all of California, much of the Walnut Creek central business district saw a drastic decrease in visitors. Ultimately That meant that demand for parking was at all-time lows, while many restaurants remained open for pick up or delivery only.
Data from Frogparking’s sensors has played an unexpected role in the city’s response to COVID-19.
“Initially, the City wanted to install space by space sensors in our downtown area to display information to our residents and our visitors about where parking was available. We saw the main benefits of this being reducing congestion around the City, reduce the time it takes to find a parking space, which ultimately makes the parking journey better for drivers,” says Smadar Boardman.
“The City ran a competitive RFP process, which Frogparking won. For phase 1 of the project, we installed Frogparking’s sensors in a small chunk of our downtown area to act as a proof of concept, test their viability, and prove their accuracy in the field. Frogparking passed this test with flying colours, passing any accuracy test that we threw at them.
“Once they passed our acceptance criteria, they installed sensors in the remaining downtown areas. Shortly after Frogparking finished their installation, we began seeing the effects of California’s shelter in place notice.
“Using the data from Frogparking’s sensors, we are able to confirm our suspicions; turnover was up and duration was down because people were predominantly using our parking spaces as short term pick up and drop off zones for food or other items. This meant our parking sensors became more about kerb management than enforcing parking.
“We used that data to stop charging for parking, to help our downtown businesses be COVID friendly. And we will use the data, in combination with engagement with local business, to decide when the time is right to resume charging for parking,” says Boardman.
With a low impact installation, the City’s sensors were ready to quickly and without having to shut down streets or large parts of the parking asset.
“The process was fast. Their California-based team arrived and within a week or so, they were done. We didn’t have to shut down streets for works and, in most cases, we didn’t even notice them working or the equipment installed on the streets,” says Boardman.
“They were well ahead of schedule and accommodating of many requests that we had during the installation phase. Even when we were dealing with technical people in New Zealand, work was completed fast.
“Frogparking stood out from the rest, that’s why we chose them. Their product and their service is superb. They passed our accuracy trials and we couldn’t be happier with them. We’d happily refer them to any other city,” says Boardman.