Primarily funded by the USDOT’s Smart City Challenge, the Smart Columbus Program is a collection of eight transportation, mobility and data projects aimed at improving access to jobs, enhancing tourism, stimulating the economy, connecting residents to safe and reliable transportation, and supporting efficient and sustainable movement of people and goods throughout Columbus, Ohio. The Event Parking Management (EPM) project solution sought to expand the features of the legacy ParkColumbus app that provided public and private parking information, and the ability to pay for and extend on-street parking durations, as well as on-demand purchases and reservations at private garages and surface parking lots. ParkColumbus enhancements under the EPM project included the development of a website (to accompany the app) and a parking prediction model that displayed the likelihood of finding available on-street parking on a given block. Parking availability and other data from 86 percent of the available parking garages and private surface lots in the City’s Downtown and Short North district was captured and transmitted to the EPM Central System and then to the Smart Columbus Operating System (SCOS). The implementation of the new functionalities developed by the EPM project was started in July 2020 and finalized in early 2021.
- Use a streamlined version of systems engineering for technology-based projects to ensure the on-time delivery of the product to the public. The project was intentionally switched to Agile development from the V-Model approach after system requirements were completed to create an efficient and ongoing release of required features to the public. Starting with an approach with an ability to iterate concepts and development while having continuous traceability and check-ins can tremendously speed up the project.
- Ask up front whether the technology is production-ready, and if so where it was already in use, when working with technology vendors. As the project turned to development, the EPM project team found that many technology vendor companies could share their vision but not a tangible, ready to be tested solution, which was challenging. It is important to interview technology companies to understand the extent of their product’s capabilities and ask if the product is currently available or just in the concept phase. The study also suggests learning technology terminologies to help understand the difference between a live product and a product concept.
- Be aware of potential technology obsolescence and get a reliable cost for a product early on. In many cases, new technology can be cost-prohibitive and quickly outdated.
- Leverage existing contracts to facilitate the success of the project. The EPM project team chose an existing vendor, ParkMobile, due to its ability to successfully implement the needs of the EPM project and because it was already under contract with the City of Columbus Parking Services. This created efficiencies in procurement and relationships, as well as in terms of having a built-in user base.