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Smart tech could help HK ease congestion

Hongkongers are reliant on automobiles a major means of transportation. However, they are reportedly in use for just 3 per cent to 5 per cent of their lifetime, remaining parked for the rest of the time.

Given the shortage of land, parking spaces are difficult to locate and looking for the is often time-consuming and frustrating.

The Transport Department has stated private car ownership in Hong Kong has soared from 402,000 in 2006 to 618,000 in 2018. The number of vehicles is outnumbering parking spaces, resulting in illegal parking on the streets.

Cruising for parking is a problem caused by the increase of car owners, and additional traffic, resulting from drivers wandering around in search of car parking spaces. While the Government has implemented fierce tax policies on the prices of fuels and cars, the number of cars in Hong Kong continues to grow.

There is, therefore, an obvious need for more parking spaces and better management.

Hence, the Government is studying the feasibility of setting up a so-called “smart” car parking system with 200 parking slots at the junction between Yen Chow Street and Tung Chau Street in Sham Shui Po.

In Kowloon East, under the core concept of “Smart City”, the Transport Department proposed to deploy a cylinder-vertical-lifting technology to park cars into empty spaces via a lift.

To support the Hong Kong government’s ambition to mould Hong Kong into a “Smart City”, Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) worked with the Energising Kowloon East Office (EKEO) to launch smart parking and a “Smart Parking” mobile app in January 2017.

The technology is feasible for the site in Sham Shui Po, which is around 3,400 square metres in area without any superstructures on the ground.

Such technology can save drivers’ time in parking and collecting their cars, as well as alleviating the problem of illegal parking – one of the main causes of severe congestion. The Smart Parking pilot involves a cloud-based server that collects real-time parking vacancy data and an analysis function that finds the shortest driving route based on real-time traffic conditions.

Driven by the urban technology initiative, a German automobile manufacturer aspires to set the concept of self-parking into motion. The idea would help soothe traffic congestion as drivers could drop off their car in front of the car park without queuing. This revolutionary idea can be applied to city centres in Hong Kong.

For example, roads in Tsim Sha Tsui are mostly narrow and of single-lane dual way, resulting in on-street queuing, which prompts further congestion.

If an automatic car park is available in the Tsim Sha Tsui area, drivers can simply leave their cars at the entrance to allow the robots to park their cars. Similarly, drivers can pick their cars within a short time to reduce the waiting time of other drivers.

Both being so-called “tiger cities”, Singapore and Hong Kong are often compared in their city advancement.

The Singapore Sports Hub master plan exemplifies how sports, leisure and lifestyle destinations can be successfully developed in the city centre that creates a sense of place.

Witnessing the successful development of sports excellence and the creation of active centres for Singaporeans, the Hong Kong government proposes to embody a dynamic range of facilities throughout the sites above the car parks, for instance, gardens, leisure areas with benches, shelters, playgrounds, gymnasiums, and lockers.

This is to offer a place for diversified activities in a self-contained community that advances every individual’s experience.

Ultimately, there is the option of implementing a large-scale development of smart car parking to replace low-storey car parks to efficiently utilise the land and free up land resources for other uses.

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