Cape Town - 120301 - The City of Cape Town has granted SPS (Street Parking Solutions) permission to expand its parking sensor base to 1000 permanent sensor installations within the CBD area. When the sensor detects the presence of a vehicle in a parking bay, a signal is sent to the back office computer and to the hand-held units carried by parking marshals. Picture: David Ritchie

All eyes are on errant motorists in the Cape Town CBD.

Hi-tech parking monitors being installed across the central city will alert traffic police to drivers who have overstayed in their bays, and there are plans for the road-mounted sensors to raise the alarm when motorists park in loading zones and disabled bays.

The City of Cape Town’s kerbside parking operator for the CBD, Street Parking Solutions (SPS), has been testing parking bay sensor mats on a section of Long Street since November 2010, and began installing permanent sensors, which are embedded in the tarmac.

These “eyes” detect all vehicular movement in their bays.

If a driver parks in a one-hour bay for more than that hour, the sensor will pick it up. A grace period, possibly 10 minutes, may be programmed into the device, after which the sensor will send a message to hand-held devices carried by traffic police on patrol in the precinct.

The device will display the street name and bay number.

The officer will be able to use to the device to photograph the vehicle and print out a ticket based on the electronic data which proves that the vehicle has overstayed the prescribed time.

The sensors in the tarmac are being paid for by SPS.

They are imported from outside the country, although the company did not wish to divulge the cost for reasons around commercial competitiveness.

About 600 sensors have been installed already, and the roll-out is planned for the 2 000-odd bays that SPS manages.

The system will help to ensure that parkers stick to the time limits on parking bays and thereby increase parking availability, SPS and the City of Cape Town explained.

This would benefit all motorists who visited the CBD.

Zunaide Loghdey of SPS said: “Parking is the lifeblood of any CBD, and timely parking rotation in particular. If you have a car parking in a bay for nine hours, instead of a maximum period of 30 minutes, for example, then you are potentially preventing 17 other vehicles from parking there during that period. You can imagine the impact of that non-availability of parking for businesses near that bay.

“What we’re trying to do is free up the parking bays, so that everyone can get parking.”

Loghdey said the sensor system would also be invaluable for a variety of experts, such as property brokers, city planners and private developers, by providing extremely accurate data about vehicle numbers in specific areas, the percentage of unoccupied bays in an area, and whether other areas are oversubscribed.

Loghdey said about 1 000 sensors would be in place shortly.

The system could also be extended to parking bays for the disabled and loading zones, which were abused.

This was planned but not yet approved.

Under the proposed system, official “disabled” car stickers would be available at the municipality, and would include a coded chip. When a disabled motorist parked in a disabled bay, the bay sensor would read the chip and satisfy itself that the car was registered and therefore allowed to park there.

If a vehicle did not have this embedded identification, traffic officers would be alerted immediately.

This would apply to loading bays too.

Loghdey said vehicles that parked in loading bays illegally or for too long caused havoc by forcing delivery trucks to double-park,, which caused knock-on traffic problems.

The sensors have no commercial value, so are unlikely to be stolen, and can stand up to five tons.

Last month, the city announced a plan to introduce more than 3 300 new paid parking bays across Cape Town, with after-hours tariffs for parts of the CBD, Claremont, Observatory, Camps Bay and Strand.

This is part of the city’s new parking plan, the tender for which goes out for public participation this month.

The city said it hoped the extra bays would boost economic activity and encourage more people to use public transport. - Cape Argus