Driving to most commercial or public spots means finding a parking space for the vehicle. Parking lots often feature parking attendants or parking enforcement officers to manage the space and oversee its smooth functioning. Without parking enforcement officers, chaos and confusion would ensue in parking lots.
This is especially true for India since unlike the West, where automated parking has significantly replaced the need for human parking officers, the country has a long way to go in the automation department. Without parking enforcement officers, there simply would be no one to dispense parking tickets, collect fees, and impose fines. While the first two tasks are undertaken by private companies that have been outsourced these duties by the government, parking enforcement is administered by the Traffic Police.
More importantly, paid parking means a solid stream of revenue for corporations and parking fines means that the Traffic Police can both enforce parking rules and penalize offenders. Thus, parking enforcement officers have an important role to play in the progress of urban India.
Can We Do Without Parking Enforcement Officers?
Typically, a Parking Enforcement Officer’s duty is to patrol an assigned area of the city to ensure motorists follow parking rules. They also issue citations for expired meters, improperly licensed vehicles, and improperly parked vehicles. They also notify the police of incidents involving abusive behavior by the public or accidents and provide traffic control when assigned or as necessary. Naturally, they have an essential role to play in maintaining order and ensuring safety.
In India, manual collection of fines is still a widely prevalent practice. In major metros, parking enforcement officers now hand over challans that can be paid later. Further, there are provisions in some cities such as Bengaluru and Mumbai for officers to issue printed parking tickets that can be paid online. Even in the West, officers are still to be found in some of the inner cities and towns where despite automation, enforcement is manual.
In other words, while automation does make parking enforcement officers redundant in some cases, the fact that human judgment plays a major role in decision making about administering fines, the era of parking enforcement officers is unlikely to end soon.
Moreover, with parking fines often leading to arguments between the officer and the motorist, there is a likelihood that automation would still need human intervention; automated parking systems may not be able to enforce strict rules. Hence, parking enforcement officers will likely see increased responsibilities rather than a diminishing of roles.
The Evolving Role of Parking Enforcement Officers
Having said the above, with smart parking systems and the concomitant trend of smart cities, we might see a point where the entire parking system is automated, the fines being automatically levied. With technology such as smart parking apps, license plate recognition (LPR) technology, officers will soon be able to capture violations and issue fines quickly.
Printing tickets and enforcement will become easy with handheld devices synced to a central repository through the internet. Moreover, disputes, unless serious, might be resolved by AI-enabled smart systems, rendering human intervention unnecessary. In such a scenario, the duty of a parking enforcement officer would be only that of supervision, ensuring the system is functioning well.
Lastly, with the arrival of self-driving cars, the role of the parking enforcement officers is likely to be limited to monitoring and responding to accidents. After all, a parking enforcement officer might find it pointless to interact with a robot in a driverless vehicle.