Magazine

Parking Revenue is Texas Size at DFW

Rod Hoover

Today, airports commonly encompass large areas of land and have all of the functions and physical infrastructure of a modern-day city. The FAA maintains a number of classifications for airports, according to their size. Among the approximately 30 airports that are classified by the FAA as large hubs, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is one of the largest and busiest airports. It recently ranked No. 4 in the U.S.
It's no surprise that the volume of cars that enter and park at the facility is enormous. Parking at DFW is big business, reportedly representing the single largest source of revenue for the airport every year. As an illustration, a new parking solution is underway that will handle 50 million transactions per year. The airport's goals are to improve efficiency, reduce patron transaction times, increase throughput, provide 100 percent expansion capability for the future and generally enhance customer service. This multi-level automated parking system will do all of that and more.
Innovations
The Dallas/Fort Worth Automated Parking System (APS) is truly an advanced system, featuring many unique features and functions. The technology represents a tremendous opportunity for DFW to take a significant step forward in advancing the airports of today into the airports of tomorrow. One of the most significant aspects of the Automatic Parking System is the integration of traditional magnetic stripe tickets with Automatic Vehicle Identification and License Plate Recognition technologies used for access control and revenue realization. Through a partnership with the North Texas Tollway Association (NTTA), DFW Airport will be dramatically expanding its AVI customer base to many thousands of current NTTA AVI tag holders.
The LPR employs an infrared camera to capture an image of the license plate. Using optical character recognition software, the image is converted into a character string that will be used by the system to uniquely track the vehicle's traversals throughout the facility. Every time the vehicle passes through a lane, the license plate number will be captured and attached to the database transaction record. The license plate number is even encoded on the ticket. License plate recognition and capture provides the basis for many of the security and anti-fraud capabilities of the DFW APS. LPR technology automates a procedure currently performed manually by operators at the airport's entry plazas and will decrease patron processing time through the facility.
The heart of the DFW APS is the Facility Management Application, which builds on the base of ScanNet, Federal APD's Central Facility Parking Management System while adding significant functionality targeted to meet airport requirements. Given the appropriate access privileges, the system can be operated and maintained from any workstation attached to the DFW network. The system runs on high-end multi-CPU servers under Solaris, Sun's version of the UNIX operating system. The airport parks vehicles 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, so the DFW APS specification mandates that the system be operational 99.999% of the time. This "5-Nines" reliability requirement equates to less than 5 minutes of system down time per year. In order to achieve this extreme level of reliability, the system will be deployed on three fully redundant, fault-tolerant servers. The system load is also distributed and shared among these servers; any two of which could conceivably go down and the application will continue to run on the remaining server.
For main data storage, the system employs a Storage Area Network with 5 terabytes of memory utilizing RAID-5 (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) technology for reliability and redundancy. The SAN communicates to the servers via high-speed fiber channel network interfaces. Oracle relational database management software seamlessly distributes the data among the servers to the SAN. The 5 TB of storage are necessary for the online retention of two years of revenue and transaction data, including JPEG rear vehicle images from lane-mounted closed circuit TV cameras.
In the lane, a new lane-control processor will be at the heart of the system, performing the lane level logic and coordinating communication with the other devices. In manned booths, a keyboard and flat panel touch screen display will be added to the lane control processor to become the fee computer. The Ticket Issuing Device and Exit/Crossover Verifier features Ethernet connectivity and a high-speed transport mechanism. A unique ability of the APS is the compatibility to read legacy tickets during the transition period from the current system.
The Federal APD Direct Drive PosiDrive Model 50 Gate with logic circuitry and a 10BaseT Ethernet interface will be used. All of the main lane equipment will support Ethernet communications for high-end systems like DFW's, as well as the more conventional point-to-point interfaces necessary for standalone applications. In the event of the loss of communications to the servers, the lane devices must be capable of operating autonomously and locally storing up to 10,000 transactions worth of data.

Rod Hoover is with Federal APD. He can be reached at rhoover@federalapd.com

Article Abstract from April, 2003




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