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Making public parking a positive experience for people with disabilities in Budapest

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The issues related to accessible parking spaces for people with disabilities in Budapest is an overlooked topic, even though many people use these spaces on a daily basis. According to the 2011 census data of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, there are nearly 35 000 people with reduced mobility in Budapest, but including those living in the agglomeration and those involved in the transport of people with reduced mobility, there are around 100,000 people directly affected. However, disabled parking is not only available to people with physical disabilities, but also to anyone else who holds a disability parking card, further increasing the number of people affected.

For a person with reduced mobility or other disabilities, it is extremely important to be able to plan their trip in advance and have full information on the accessibility of their surroundings, including parking. Smart Lynx has recognised the importance of this issue and can contribute with its innovative smart parking solution to transform parking in Budapest into a truly accessible and positive experience.

Regulation and challenges of accessible parking

One problem is the lack of available data on the exact number of disabled parking spaces in Budapest, so we can only rely on estimates. According to the Hungarian regulations, for every 50 parking spaces created, at least one parking space must be reserved for people with reduced mobility, of which up to four can be placed directly next to each other. Assuming that there are nearly 120 000 paid public parking places in Budapest, it can be estimated that there are a total of 2500-3 000 public parking places dedicated to persons with disabilities in the busiest areas of Budapest. In other words, demand is several times greater than supply. As a result, people with reduced mobility often face the problem of not finding a suitable parking place in the vicinity of their destination. 

In addition, not only the number of disabled parking spaces is regulated, but also their size, as it is necessary to ensure that a wheelchair user can get around the vehicle without any problems. According to the Hungarian regulations, the minimum width of an accessible parking space is 3.6 m, the minimum length is 5.5 m for a perpendicular space and 6.5 m for a parallel parking space. 

Smart parking for a more accessible urban mobility

So it is clear how many aspects have to be taken into account when implementing an accessible parking space. One wonders whether these requirements are always met in reality, and how can people check the actual size of the parking space if they need a larger lot than the required minimum length and width? How can they be sure that the parking space is really suitable for them and, if so, that it will be free and they will be able to park?

Fortunately, one part of the solution is here, with Smart Lynx’s smart parking already up and running throughout Budapest’s 5th district and part of the 13th district. With sensors deployed in parking spaces and using the Parker app, the occupancy status of parking spaces, including disabled spaces, can be checked with just a few clicks. (Showing information about disabled spaces within the app, like size and other relevant circumstances is already on our development roadmap.)

Disabled parking spaces equipped with smart parking sensors

Averaged over the last period, 6% of daily users have used the app to search for disabled spaces, confirming that there is a significant demand for such a service. In Budapest, there are currently a total of 140 PRM parking spaces equipped with smart parking sensors, of which 138 are located in the 5th and two in the 13th district.

Based on the above data, it can be estimated that the Parker app could assist more than 350 PRM (people with reduced mobility) users per day in the busiest areas of Budapest, if covering all the approximately 3,000 spaces in question, and assuming that the user base grows at the same rate as the number of sensor-equipped parking spaces increases.  

Smart Lynx aims to make the smart parking experience available to as many users as possible, by “smarting up” all public disabled parking spaces in Budapest. The Smart Budapest Ideas Competition of the Budapest Enterprise Agency, where Smart Lynx’s submitted application on this topic was among the 12 best ideas, could help to achieve this goal. As part of a pilot project, Smart Lynx has committed to deploy parking sensors in 5-5 disabled parking spaces in each district of Budapest, and to provide occupancy data via the Parker app.

Let’s not forget that, in addition to the occupancy of parking spaces, drivers with disabilities and their assistance also need information on the size of parking spaces. A new feature would also be added to the Parker app so that users can check not only whether a particular disabled space is occupied or free, but also information on the size and ramp.

Data for more efficient parking management

Besides users, municipalities can also benefit from the valuable information provided by such a smart parking development. As a result of the pilot, it will be possible, among other things, to measure the actual occupancy of the disabled parking spaces in question, enabling the municipality to benefit from the decision-making support provided by the solution. 

For example, by monitoring actual occupancy, the number and location of disabled parking spaces can be optimised. The data can then be used to decide whether to create new disabled parking spaces or to remove existing under-utilised ones to free up public space. The following diagram illustrates how significant the change in occupancy of each parking space can be.  While the occupancy rate of the first parking space is generally around 20%, and even during the busiest periods it is only 60%, the second parking space is almost always occupied. This is typically a case where it would be advisable to eliminate one disabled space and increase the number of disabled spaces in the other location. 

Parking occupancy data for two disabled parking spaces in Budapest in October

The smart parking system can also make it more efficient to check the eligibility of vehicles parked in disabled parking spaces in public areas, as access to real-time occupancy data allows parking enforcement officers to check the eligibility of the vehicle as soon as possible when a new parking activity has been detected.

These are just the direct benefits, but a well-functioning smart parking system can also positively impact the quality of life of citizens in a number of indirect ways. By saving cars from having to search for parking spaces, vehicle emissions are also reduced, thus improving air quality and reducing noise pollution in the neighbourhood. Moreover, the municipality is able to offer a modern and innovative parking solution to help people with reduced mobility to make their daily commute easier.

Smart Lynx believes that the cooperation of local municipalities and innovative businesses can create more accessible and liveable cities for people living there and those affected by these challenges. Smart Lynx has many years of experience in providing smart city solutions for mobility. The aim of the company is to make its environmentally friendly, economical and time-saving smart parking solution available to as many people as possible.

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