“The parking guidance process should actually start at home, where the customer is able to use a website or app to check whether parking is available before they begin their journey.
“In 2008 I was involved in an installation at my local shopping center in Australia. During the weekend, the shopping center would be very busy and the parking garages would be very full. But we would use an app to check how many spaces were available in each garage before we left the house, and this meant we could travel directly to that garage once we arrived at the shopping mall. Before the app, by 11 am I would be inclined not to bother going because I knew it would be busy and I didn’t want to waste time circling the garages to find a space. But the app meant that I was able to make a smart decision about the right garage to use on this multi-garage site.
“The next step that we recommend in the parking guidance process is signage on the precinct, and this is especially important on a site with multiple garages, where signs should be placed at key points to let drivers know which garage they should drive to. Then, once they get to the right garage, they would find signs at key decision points throughout the garage to let them know how many spaces are available on each level. So again, drivers can make the decision to go upstairs, and on each level, they will see how many spaces are available so they can decide whether to drive into the level. This stops drivers circling the garage and creating traffic.
“Generally drivers will enter a garage, drive around in a circle, then drive up a level and drive around in a circle again until they make it to a level with available spaces. With signage, they can bypass the full levels and drive straight to a level with spaces. Once a driver reaches a level with spaces, we recommend that signs are placed at the end of each row, to inform them whether it is full or how many spaces are available. Once a driver looks down that row and they should be able to see a string of lights displaying red or green to show a vacant or occupied space. When a driver sees a green light, they can drive straight down the row and pull into a vacant space.
“Of course, parking guidance systems are not so important for garages that do not reach capacity each day, but they make a huge difference if the garage is 75% occupied or more because that’s when it starts to become difficult to find a space. Inside the garage, parking guidance improves the customer journey, and significantly reduces traffic and congestion because people aren’t circling and looking for a space. You know the classic shopping center parking scenario, where drivers follow people who are carrying bags, wait for them to get to their car and load their shopping so that they can take the space. And whilst a driver is doing that they are blocking 10 cars behind them, who might not even be trying to find a space, they might just be trying to get out of the garage. Reduced traffic and congestion also result in less pollution, increased safety for vehicles and safer pedestrian access because drivers are able to concentrate more on their driving. And, a number of studies have shown that people find a space 20-40% faster in a garage that has a parking guidance system.
“The parking guidance process should continue for the customer leaving the garage. Part of the customer journey is the return home, and, in a shopping center or airport equipped with a camera-based parking guidance system, customers might have the opportunity, either using an app, a kiosk or payment machine, to locate their car. Maybe they have been away on vacation and forgotten where their car is parked, and so a car locator service is a welcome improvement to their customer experience. Especially, as the parking guidance system reduces traffic and congestion, allowing them to quickly exit the garage.
“Studies have shown that garages with parking guidance are much more efficient, doing an extra 10-15% more vehicle entry and exits per hour and per day. With parking guidance, traffic can quickly clear the entry points and go directly to where parking is available. So previously where customers would drive around in a circle and become frustrated, even though the operator knew that 10-15% of the spaces were empty, now the customer can find those spaces without any trouble, reducing travel times, stress and needless circulation of the garage.”
Westfield Doncaster Shopping Center
“So I can think of two good examples of parking guidance that are quite personal to me. Firstly, my local shopping center, Westfield Doncaster Shopping Center, in Melbourne, which is a large mall, that was significantly expanded around 2007 and 2008. Part of the extension included the introduction of paid parking, which could attract negative media attention, and the installation of a parking guidance system, which would vastly improve the customer experience.
“The shopping center had around 5000-600 parking spaces, spread over multiple garages and lots that had expanded over the years, as well as over 1000 spaces for staff parking. The parking guidance system was installed a few months before Christmas, and the first thing that happened was there was quite a lot of positive media attention in the local and national news services. And, customers quickly got into the habit of using the app before their visit to determine which garage to park in, so that they could avoid circling four or five different garages before they found a space. Drivers were following the signs methodically through the complex, bypassing whole levels and zones to get straight to the available spaces. And as a pedestrian, it became much safer to use the garages because all of the traffic and congestion was gone.
“For the parking operator as well, they could see from their office as each site was filling up, so that they could start making plans, such as directing drivers to another parking lot or opening up valet parking. So instead of turning people away or drivers getting frustrated and leaving the site, they could sure that everybody could find a space. So, parking guidance made a huge difference, and where they had been expecting bad media for bringing in paid parking, they actually got positive media about how great the new system was, and how it made it easier to find a parking space. And of course, because more people were able to park they were able to massively increase revenues.”
Dallas Fort Worth Airport
“My second example is Dallas Fort Worth Airport, the first big site that INDECT was involved with in the USA. We have installed single space parking guidance at three terminals now, but Terminal A, with 7000 spaces, was our first big project. We often use Dallas Fort Worth as a demonstration site because we can take clients to a terminal that doesn’t have parking guidance, where they can see typical traffic and congestion problems before we take them to Terminal A where they can clearly see the difference that parking guidance makes.
“At Terminal A the entrance is on Level 3, and before the parking guidance system was installed, typically Level 1 and 5 were half empty whilst Level 3 was very busy. But now, even on a Wednesday, which is the busiest day of the week, there is no traffic because drivers enter and follow the signs straight to different levels, instead of circling Level 3 first. And so, even on a Wednesday now, the whole garage is full, people are parking in the basement and in the rooftop area, maximizing all the spaces.
“We also made big changes to the one-hour parking, which is right up on the terminal, making it the best parking in the building and, therefore, the most abused. We installed lights above the space which flash if a car has overstayed. So when a driver returns to their vehicle after a day, they might find that the whole row of one-hour parking quite empty because it runs at about 20-30% occupancy, they will also notice a light flashing above it, and there might be a warning note on it. The driver now realizes that they have been detected, and could potentially receive a fine, and so they have learned not to park there and overstay. This means that the average length of stay now is approximately 50 minutes, turnover is very high and the facility is being used as intended – for picking someone up or dropping someone off.
“Both of these projects have been a huge success, and they highlight how behavior in the parking lot changed.”
“We are finishing a number of large contracts at the moment, with some big sites in the US. We are finishing up a four garage project at the T-Mobile headquarters in Redmond. At Des Moines Airport, we finished our proof of concept last year, we went through the winter with snow in the garage and a hundred-degree temperature variation over a few days! And we will be expanding the installation across the whole garage. Navy Pier will be up and running by the summer, which will provide better services to the visitors, including the find my car feature, and an interface with the TIBA system. A big project that we will begin in August and finish next year, will be Atlanta Airport, which is the world’s busiest airport.
“Recently we have been doing a lot of interfaces with companies such as ParkConnect, TIBA, HTS, and Nedap. And this year, as part of the Atlanta project, we will have an interface with HUB which will allow us to provide find my car and premium parking on the HUB systems. In fact, we see a lot of potential for premium parking, we are very proud of how it is working at the Row Garage, and we are seeing a lot of interest from customers.
“We are doing cellular communications from our systems to the cloud for Microsoft, They have multi-garages that are being linked to the Asura cloud where our software is being hosted, and it is all being put together using cellular communications, which is great because it takes away a lot of the infrastructure requirements. We have partnered with T-Mobile for their very latest cellular products.
“One of our new products is the outdoor detection cameras, which we have rolled out across three sites in the USA – in Milwaukee, Colorado, and Houston. What’s interesting about this product, is that it is not just being used for counting, but the camera can be zoomed in to read the vehicle’s license plate. So that is going to be rolled out, and the big installment will be the rooftop of the Atlanta Airport project, where we are going to do find my car, and possibly premium parking.”
Listen to Dale’s insights into Parking Guidance, and hear from Portier’s Managing Director, Jussi Tomperi, in Parking Talks:
And don’t forget, you can still watch Part 1 of our Parking Guidance Parking Talks featuring Park Assist and Yellow and Co.