ParkBySMS in action: a case study

How the easiest and most effective parking payment solution in the world
transformed on-street parking for the capital of Bulgaria

  • 250%
  • 1%
  • 18M
    Savings over
    past 8 years
  • 210M+
The background

Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria and the 15th largest city in Europe with a population of nearly 2 million.

As well as being a major international hub for road transport, the city has seen private vehicle ownership rise rapidly throughout the last decades. According to a paper published by the National Statistical Office in 2009, the city has the fourth highest number of vehicles per capital in the whole of the European Union at 564.4 vehicles per 1,000 people.

The situation and challenges

Like many other European cities, Sofia is experiencing rapid growth as a result of urban migration. This has naturally led to increased traffic and, with it, the familiar parking problems.

For a long time, the city was relying on a paper-based parking tickets approach - a system that was both inefficient and costly. As a result the authorities were looking for a more efficient, cost-effective, modern and ultimately sustainable long-term solution that would work for the foreseeable future.

The solution

After a great deal of research and careful consideration of the possible solutions, in 2006 the city authorities decided to build a custom, innovative SMS parking payments system which would solve a multitude of problems all at once. A115 was hired to work closely with the municipality and to design, develop and implement the solution

  • Step one covered a series of meetings designed to gather information about the scale of the project: the number of parking zones, the total number of parking spaces, parking rules and regulations, pricing and estimated traffic volumes.
  • The next step was for A115 to build a custom solution, which would meet all requirements and serve the city’s entire ‘Blue Zone’ - an area that comprises over 100 streets and more than 15,000 parking spaces. At the same time, the team was working actively with the country's three mobile operators to achieve the ultimate in simplicity and reliability for the innovative technical solution.
  • The fourth step consisted of setting up the payment procedures with the mobile operators and extensive testing, to ensure that the solution functions seamlessly at all times and that the monthly payments can be monitored to eliminate any discrepancies. A single, city-wide, four digit short-code number (1302) was allocated for SMS parking payments by all three operators and it was tariffed as a premium SMS rate of 0.5 Euro, where one payment would cover one full hour of parking time.
  • With the solution safely and securely installed, the ParkbySMS consulting team then set about training municipality staff to make the very most of this cutting-edge solution.
  • The training covered all hardware and networking equipment, including the use of industrial-grade handheld PDA devices for in-field monitoring and control. Municipality staff was trained to access and make use of the comprehensive reporting features and to make informed decisions based on the in-depth information that ParkBySMS presents.
  • The final step was the establishment of a schedule covering the on-going maintenance and servicing of the solution to ensure that the solution is working at maximum efficiency, reliability and security at all times.
  • Following a short but intensive national advertising campaign, led by the mayor, everyone had great expectations and was anxious to evaluate the results.
  • As it turned out, the results were nothing short of spectacular...
The results and benefits

The results have been an unprecedented success.

  • Since it was introduced in 2007, the SMS parking payments solution has had a huge positive impact on parking across the entire city.
  • Today, after more than 8 years of intensive real-world testing and continual fine tuning, ParkBySMS processes hundreds of thousands of successful parking payments every single business day, with a total of more than 210 million payments and counting.
  • The city’s daily revenues from on-street parking have increased by a massive 250%, leaping from less than €20,000 to over €50,000, while the fraction of non-paying drivers dropped from an unacceptably high 35% to fewer than 1%.
  • In addition, the ParkbySMS solution provides the city authorities with advanced real-time reporting covering parking space utilization, parking violations, revenues and insights into driver behaviour and parking patterns.
  • Finally to ensure accuracy across all transactions, the ParkBySMS solution delivers a summary of the expected income at the end of each billing period. A detailed report of all billed messages for the period can also be obtained, to assist in dispute resolution.

The key benefits at a glance

One system supports Sofia’s entire ‘Blue Zone’ comprising all city-centre streets and over 15,000 parking spaces
Over 210,000,000 successful transactions to date
Approximately 160,000 parking payments processed every business day
Near 100% take-up rate (far preferred to any other payment method!)
Daily revenues increased a massive 250%; from less than €20,000 to over €50,000
Operating costs reduced by a staggering 60%
Percentage of non-paying drivers reduced from 35% to less than 1%
Environmentally friendly, sustainable and future-proof parking solution
Advanced real-time reporting covering: parking space utilization, parking violations, revenues and insights into driver behaviour
Detailed reports of all billed messages and the expected monthly income