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Case Study: Toronto Int'l Airport Installs POF Parking Revenue Control System

Rick Duffy

Major Airport parking facilities present a unique set of challenges for the application of a parking revenue control system. An increasing number of North American Airports are migrating from traditional Cashier Exit Systems to a blended technology system that includes Pay-On-Foot Stations and Express Exit Stations.
This article presents a Case Study about the implementation of automated parking controls at Toronto Pearson International Airport's Terminal 3.
T3 Automated Parking System
Toronto Pearson International Airport "TPIA" is managed, operated and maintained by the Greater Toronto Airports Authority "GTAA". The Airport presently provides over 11,000 transient parking spaces. Terminal 3 is supported by a 4,300 space, four-level Parkade. Transient parking revenue transactions vary seasonally; ranging from 4,000 to 8,000 per day. Traffic is controlled at eight (8) vehicle entry, barrier gate lanes; and ten (10) vehicle exit, barrier gate lanes.
Transient parking rates are presently: $19 per day, $95 per week, plus $13 for every day thereafter.
Primary Challenges
Terminal 3 supports Charter Airlines, Economy Airlines and International Carriers. This creates a high volume of exit traffic during peak passenger departure and arrival times. The result: long line-ups at exit lanes with unhappy customers left inhaling vehicle exhaust fumes.
The cashier exit revenue control operation is labor intensive. A high level of management supervision and planning is required to maintain reasonable performance standards; to ensure adequate staffing levels and also to minimize cashier theft.
Key Objectives
With the operational challenges detailed above, the GTAA's team established a list of key objectives that would have to be achieved. These were:
Reduce cashier labor dependency
Reduce potential for theft
Increase customer service levels
Increase vehicle throughput at barrier gate exit lanes
Solution
In examining the problem, it became clear that the status quo could not be maintained. The number of vehicle exit lanes had already been expanded from six to ten in 2001. By improving cashier procedures, the average transaction time had been reduced to the shortest possible duration. And there was no more space available to add more exit lanes. Besides, more cashier booths would simply compound the staffing challenges that already existed.
The focus then turned to the feasibility of operating automated payment stations. The case supporting the system appeared clear: Add centrally located Pay-On-Foot Parking Pay Stations and Credit Card Express Exit Stations to reduce the number of cashier lanes; and to reduce the payment transaction times at the vehicle exit lanes. The payment processing time would now be transferred from the confines of a carbon monoxide emitting vehicle, to the relatively benign environment of a centrally located pedestrian lobby.
There were other considerations that weighed into the decision. Would the public accept the concept of paying for parking at machines? Surely, this was not a revolutionary solution. Many of the major commercial parking facilities in Toronto had already converted to the technology. So, the Toronto Pearson International Airport would not be living on the 'ragged edge' of technology. However, recognizing that the Airport environment is unique, the GTAA elected to install a trial Pay-On-Foot Station and Credit Card Exit Terminal in order to assess the customer acceptance and also to invite public comment about its desire to convert the Terminal 3 Parking Garage to an automated parking garage.
The trial installation was concluded successfully. The large majority of customers were able to successfully navigate the payment process at the Pay-On-Foot Station, and the public feedback was generally positive.
On the strength of the successful trial, and with the objectives at the forefront, the GTAA committed to the installation of an automated parking system manufactured and installed by WPS Parking Systems. The design included sixteen Pay-On-Foot Stations-one at every pedestrian lobby- and ten Credit Card Express Exit Stations to equip all vehicle exit lanes.
Benchmarks
The target established was to reduce the number of cashier exit lanes from ten to two. This would be staged based on an analysis of traffic volumes. The average length of a cashier exit transaction was 45 seconds. The estimated average length of an automated exit transaction was 10 seconds. Therefore, as the percentage of payments at automated stations increased, the number of cashier lanes would be decreased.
Public Relations
The GTAA recognized that one of the key factors to ensure a successful automated parking system operation would be the design and deployment of effective signs and instructional material for customers.
While an increasing number of major commercial facilities and Airports across Canada have installed automated parking systems; the public education effort still focuses on one fundamental, but key message, "Please take your ticket with you...."
A significant percentage of parking customers will still leave their tickets behind in their vehicles. Leaving a tickets in your vehicles means the inconvenience of having to retrieve the ticket to use the Pay-On-Foot Station. Translation: most customers that leave their tickets in vehicles will by-pass the central payment stations-defaulting to cashier payment in the vehicle exit lanes.
A second key objective for the signs was to create customer awareness of the automated parking system concept. This would be achieved by the installation of various message signs at key pedestrian traffic areas and throughout the garage. The automated parking system was branded by the term "AutoPay(TM)". All signs contained the AutoPay(TM) name.
The system was fully installed and commissioned for public use in January, 2003. The results from the first two months of the system operation are showing a positive trend:
Interim Results:
While it is early in the operating life of the new AutoPay(TM) System, the interim results are proving that the system is achieving its desired goals, and will only achieve greater results as the public awareness of the system increases.
The percentage of transactions processed at automated payment stations is steadily increasing and had reached approximately 55% by early-March. In addition, the percentage of credit card payment transactions represented half of the automated payments processed. The absolute total of payments processed by credit card has doubled compared against the credit card payments processed at cashier lanes.
The result has been reduced line-ups at vehicle exit lanes, and this has been achieved while already reducing the number of cashier lanes from ten (10) to five (5).
The increase in credit card payment transactions reduces cash handling and administration. Credit card transactions are processed in real-time via a high-speed, high security Internet connection; and funds are automatically deposited daily. This ensures a 100% capture rate for credit card transactions.
Increased Customer Service
The GTAA is pursuing its strategy to further enhance the level of customer service by re-deploying staff from the constraints of a cashier booth environment, to a more front-line public relations role acting as Customer Service Representatives (CSRs). CSRs direct customers to the Pay-On-Foot Station and assist the public in any other way in which they are able to help.
Now that the GTAA has gained practical experience about the automated parking system operation from several months of rigorous public use; the focus has become optimization of the system capabilities and streamlining the protocols for managing the system. WPS Parking Systems, the system supplier, is working to ensure minimal equipment and system down-time, and the GTAA is developing routines for money handling, auditing, and customer service responses.
The automated parking system has reduced the GTAA's dependency on cashier labor staffing; and has reduced the frequency and amount of cash money that is being handled. The impacts on parking revenue will have to be assessed over a longer period of time. Customer service levels have increased by reducing vehicle line-ups at exit lanes, and the deployment of personnel as Customer Service Representatives will help to improve the parking experience.

Rick Duffy is with WPS North America in Toronto. He can be reached at rick@wps-na.com.

Article Abstract from April, 2003




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