Here’s how Comarch’s intelligent parking information system will transform Krakow

The sensors at work. Image: Zarząd Dróg Miejskich.

In just a few months, the Polish city of Kraków will be using a new parking information system, based on Comarch's Smart Parking solution. The new system will monitor four streets in the city's very centre, and provide live information about free parking places via mobile apps and local informatioin boards.

The project has been commissioned by Miejska Infrastruktura, the municipal department for urban infrastructure. Initially, it will cover parking places in the Paid Parking Zone (PPZ) along the following streets: Szlak, Warszawska, Ogrodowa, and Matejki Square (an extension of Warszawska Street).

But information on free places will ultimately be available for the entire PPZ, and for other city car parks, including the one located near the Korona sporting arena, and the underground car park next to the National Museum. In the future, the information system will even connect to other city car parks, the planned Park & Ride car parks, and those of other operators, too.

The science part

The project involves the installation of 284 wireless sensors and two information boards, as well as the provision of the mobile applications running on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Once complete, the system will collect information on availability of places on a 24-7 basis, to inform drivers in real time about the number of free car park places.

The solution is supplemented by a management and analytical platform that will monitor the functioning of the infrastructure that makes up the system. Miejska Infrastruktura will also be able to obtain analytical data in the form of reports and summaries of key indicators and statistics on utilisation of car park places. All this will help the department to make decisions concerning the city's parking policy.

“Towns more and more rely on smart city solutions that enhance both the quality of life of inhabitants, and their safety,” says Comarch’s sales director Barbara Waszkiewicz. She added that the firm’s smart parking solution means that “the time needed to find a free car park place will be shortened – which will result in less intensive traffic in the area.

Krakow is not the first Polish city to install a Comarch IT solution that monitors the number of free car park places in a town: just a few weeks ago, Warsaw adopted a similar system. “The fact that the two largest cities in Poland have decided to have a Comarch system proves that it meets expectations of local-government authorities” says Waszkiewicz, “also those of city inhabitants. Facilitated finding of a parking space is convenient for drivers, and a chance to reduce pollution produced by cars.”

The menu of Comarch's smart parking app.

The firm has has invested intensively in its car parking solutions, explains Product Manager, Comarch Smart City product manager Wojciech Dec. As a result, it can now offer a system that combines multiple methods of detecting the occupancy of car park places.

“Kraków's system is based on sensors,” says Dec. “Nonetheless, the Comarch Smart Parking platform allows connecting solutions that also utilise other detection methods, for example, using cameras and smart video analytics. We combine these two methods of recognising free car park places, adjusting the system to specific expectations of our clients.”

And the technology is still developing. “We have great hopes for a solution that is based on smart video analytics that,” Dec notes. Besides highlighting free car park places, this would allow monitoring of whether drivers were complying with regulations – detecting cars left in prohibited places, those blocking tramway lines, or left on pavements, grass lawns, or bicycle paths.

It would also improve safety in public space. “The solution is innovative and meets with growing interests on Polish and foreign markets,” Dec concludes. “The software is continuously developed and we hope that increasingly more drivers will use it on a daily basis.”

Comarch has more than 20 years of experience in helping global companies to achieve higher profitability, and understands the importance of changes taking place in contemporary cities. Its state-of-the art technologies, geolocation with micro-navigation, multi-channel access to the Internet and the growing needs of users, have made it both possible and necessary for the firm to design a comprehensive solution that combines an individual approach to clients, strategic planning and advanced analytical capabilities.

You can find out more here.


 

 
 
 
 

Space for 8,000 new homes, most of them affordable... Why it's time to demolish Buckingham Palace

Get a lovely new housing estate, there. Image: Getty.

Scene: a council meeting.

Councillor 1: They say it’s going to cost £369m to repair and bring up to modern standards.

Councillor 2: £369m? Lambeth balked at paying just £14m to repair Cressingham Gardens. They said they’d rather knock it down and start again.

Councillor 1: Then we’re agreed? We knock Buckingham Palace down and build new housing there instead.

Obviously this would never happen. For a start, Buckingham Palace is Grade I listed, but… just imagine. Imagine if refurbishment costs were deemed disproportionate and, like many council estates before it, the palace was marked for “regeneration”.

State events transfer to Kensington Palace, St James’s and Windsor. The Crown Estate is persuaded, as good PR, to sell the land at a nominal fee to City Hall or a housing association. What could we build on roughly 21 hectares of land, within walking distance of transport and green space?

The area’s a conservation zone (Westminster Council’s Royal Parks conservation area, to be exact), so modernist towers are out. Pete Redman, a housing policy and research consultant at TradeRisks, calculates that the site could provide “parks, plazas, offices, cafes and 8,000 new dwellings without overlooking the top floor restaurant of the London Hilton Park Lane”.

Now, the Hilton is 100m tall, and we doubt Westminster’s planning committee would go anywhere near that. To get 8,000 homes, you need a density of 380 u/ha (units per hectare), which is pretty high, but still within the range permitted by City Hall, whose density matrix allows up to 405 u/ha (though they’d be one or two bedroom flats at this density) in an area with good public transport links. We can all agree that Buckingham Palace is excellently connected.

So what could the development look like? Lewisham Gateway is achieving a density of 350u/ha with blocks between eight and 25 storeys. On the other hand, Notting Hill Housing’s Micawber Street development manages the same density with mansion blocks and mews houses, no more than seven storeys high. It’s also a relatively small site, and so doesn’t take into account the impact of streets and public space.

Bermondsey Spa might be a better comparison. That achieves a density of 333u/ha over an area slightly larger than Lewisham Gateway (but still one-tenth of the Buckingham Palace site), with no buildings higher than 10 storeys.

The Buck House project seems perfect for the Create Streets model, which advocates terraced streets over multi-storey buildings. Director Nicholas Boys Smith, while not enthusiastic about bulldozing the palace, cites areas of London with existing high densities that we think of as being idyllic neighbourhoods: Pimlico (about 175u/ha) or Ladbroke Grove (about 230u/ha).


“You can get to very high densities with narrow streets and medium rise buildings,” he says. “Pimlico is four to six storeys, though of course the number of units depends on the size of the homes. The point is to develop a masterplan that sets the parameters of what’s acceptable first – how wide the streets are, types of open space, pedestrian only areas – before you get to the homes.”

Boys Smith goes on to talk about the importance of working collaboratively with the community before embarking on a design. In this scenario, there is no existing community – but it should be possible to identify potential future residents. Remember, in our fantasy the Crown Estate has been guilt-tripped into handing over the land for a song, which means it’s feasible for a housing association to develop the area and keep properties genuinely affordable.

Westminster Council estimates it needs an additional 5,600 social rented homes a year to meet demand. It has a waiting list of 5,500 households in immediate need, and knows of another 20,000 which can’t afford market rents. Even if we accepted a density level similar to Ladbroke Grove, that’s 4,830 homes where Buckingham Palace currently stands. A Bermondsey Spa-style density would generate nearly 7,000 homes.

There’s precedent for affordability, too. To take one example, the Peabody Trust is able to build genuinely affordable homes in part because local authorities give it land. In a Peabody development in Kensington and Chelsea, only 25 per cent of homes were sold on the open market. Similarly, 30 per cent of all L&Q’s new starts in 2016 were for commercial sale.

In other words, this development wouldn’t need to be all luxury flats with a few token affordable homes thrown in.

A kindly soul within City Hall did some rough and ready sums based on the figure of 8,000 homes, and reckoned that perhaps 1,500 would have to be sold to cover demolition and construction costs, which would leave around 80 per cent affordable. And putting the development in the hands of a housing association, financed through sales – at, let’s remember, Mayfair prices – should keep rents based on salaries rather than market rates.

Now, if we can just persuade Historic England to ditch that pesky Grade I listing. After all, the Queen actually prefers Windsor Castle…

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