Parking problems around the Olympics should at last be solved this year for Tokyo 2020, with largely empty stadiums across the capital, and a host of clever parking reservation schemes across those with limited capacity. But could Japan have dodged a bullet based on previous parking disasters at the Olympics? Or has prediction and reservation technology finally advanced enough to manage peak demands at large scale events?
Very few events can inspire the way the Olympics can, however, the games can also be a logistical nightmare for those involved. Looking back on previous games, London 2012 caused chaos for local residents, as nearly half of public parking spaces were reserved for officials and spectators1. Athens already had a national parking problem even prior to the games in 2004, with just one legal space for every 100 registered vehicles2. The Greek city even announced that ample parking was never a part of their plans for the games - which saw more than 12,000 abandoned cars towed away, and even with an additional 2,000 spaces created to help cope with demand, these measures still weren't enough to accommodate the immense influx of visitors that major events can bring.
Parking has historically always been a major problem for the games - so much so, that the universal sign for parking, the globally recognised white ‘P’ on a blue background, was originally created for the Olympics in Amsterdam in 1928. Additional parking sites were built to accommodate the huge surge in tourists to the city, and officials had to find a way to direct drivers accordingly. The new sign was deemed so successful in managing the unprecedented parking demand that it has remained in use ever since, helping drivers from all over the world find a place to park their vehicles3.
100 years after the Amsterdam games, parking is still a major concern for large event organisers, parking operators, and for automakers wanting to offer drivers the latest in convenience technology. Times have changed, the technology to solve large event parking issues, such as reservations and digital payments, is now readily available, but are attendees to major events receiving the service expected? Parking reservations have now become so critical to the industry, large events would not be able to operate without them.
Tokyo 2020 had already designated around 24,000 parking spaces across 33 venues, including the New National Stadium and the Olympic Village4, which could be pre-reserved online from up to two weeks before the event via the official parking provider, Park24. However, Covid-19 changed plans fundamentally, with most events now taking place behind closed doors, without spectators. But we can safely say - compared to previous events, Tokyo was prepared.
Multiple test events, carried out over the last two years, by the transport ministry and the Olympic organising committee, examined the effectiveness of reservation-only parking as a traffic control measure during the games. Each space was only available for one vehicle per day, and those without parking reservations were banned from driving on roads near the competition venues during the games. The committee hoped that reservation only schemes would prevent traffic jams caused by drivers searching for vacant spaces, and force those without reservations to park their vehicles in locations further away from competition venues and rely on bolstered public transport.
The ability to book and prepay an online parking reservation is a necessity in today’s ever-evolving digital landscape, as drivers demand convenience and speed. Automakers have provided parking reservations through partnerships with connected vehicle services providers such as Parkopedia, for many years. Reservations integrated into navigation systems via apps or in-car infotainment systems, offer convenience and reduced congestion for drivers, as well as supporting parking facility operators with inventory management and forecasting demand.
Reservations as well as digital payments, accurate availability and location information are critical for large venue parking events. From a logistical and environmental perspective, large numbers of drivers circling a small area, trying to find available parking, cause traffic chaos as well as unnecessary emissions, leading to a third of all inner-city traffic and CO2 emissions of 1.3 kilograms per search. Digital payments are convenient for not only the driver, but also for the parking facility provider, eliminating lost revenue issues regarding accepted currency or non-payments.
Static parking data allows drivers to find the closest parking to their destination and provides relevant information such as precise locations, opening times, prices and more. Dynamic data takes parking convenience to the next level, giving real-time availability of parking spaces, while pre-booking services allow drivers to reserve their parking ahead of arrival. Parkopedia offers these services and information across both on and off-street parking locations for more than 70 million spaces across 89 countries. A significant proportion of these spaces are also reservable, with more added daily. Parkopedia allows customers to find, book and pay for parking, including large scale event parking, via embedded services in automakers dedicated apps, directly through the Parkopedia app and website, or via full head-unit integration in connected vehicles, delivering the best user experience to drivers.
Parkopedia has launched its B2B parking services in Japan after announcing the opening of a dedicated Japan business in February 2021, as well as bringing data collection services in-house in Japan to deliver an automotive-grade level of quality and accuracy to the market. Parkopedia services are already used by millions of drivers and organizations globally such as Audi, Apple, BMW, Ford, Garmin, GM, Hyundai Kia, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot, Sygic, TomTom, Toyota, Volkswagen, and many others.
Adam is responsible for Parkopedia’s global marketing strategy, in addition to leading overall communications and branding.