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Floor-Count Displays Shine Bright at The Grove in L.A.

John Van Horn

Parking at The Grove is even more upscale than normal at this trendy Southern California shopping center located next to the famous Farmers Market and CBS Studio Center in L.A.'s Fairfax District. LED signage not only directs traffic but also provides information to customers.
"We use message displays to promote new programs here at The Grove, and we use them to inform customers on the way out to have their ticket and money ready," said Hamid Emami, the parking facility manager. "We also use them to promote our parking rate changes and for greetings and for different holiday messages.
"The primary use, however, is to direct parkers to floors where there is available space," Emami said. "That way they don't have to spend time searching. They can go directly to a floor with plenty of empty space and park quickly."
At the two main entries, an eight-level sign tells parkers just how many spaces are currently available on each floor. They can then decide, for example, whether to try to find one of the remaining 10 spots on the second floor or to go directly up to the sixth, where 300 spaces are available.
"Frankly, having only 10 spots on a floor is just like having it full," Emami said. "With 460 other cars on the floor, the available space is very difficult to find. Customers truly appreciate being able to drive directly to the available space, park, and then get on with their shopping."
The count system is integrated into the revenue control system, which provides the floor counts to the system supplied by the display vendor in the eight-story 3,428-space parking deck.
"The system is very accurate," Emami noted. "However, our customers do help it get out of sync. They drive up the exit ramps, thus triggering the loop detectors in the wrong direction. This makes the numbers off by two on both floors.
"We reset the counters in the evening and also first thing in the morning. Even when we don't reset, the numbers are about 95% accurate. That is certainly close enough to give the correct information to the parkers."
The count system also enables the operator to close floors when they near filling and direct traffic to areas where there is more space.
Emami said that the online PC-driven system makes it easy to reset the counters and change the messages from the parking office. The extremely bright displays are easy to read and attract the parkers' attention.
The second floor is used for valet parking, and has a large number of reserved spots for a local restaurant. "We can preset the counter on that floor to 'reserve' those spaces so parkers will assume the floor is full, even when it is not.
"If I had any recommendation to give to parking facilities considering these systems, I would first absolutely recommend they install the systems," Emami said. "But I would also tell them to look at the design of the up-and-down ramp system. If we had a system where it was more difficult to use the wrong ramp, there would be little if any inaccuracy in the system."
According to Tim Flanigan, VP of the installing company, Sentry Control Systems in Southern California, the project has been extremely successful for them. "We have had a number of clients come to us and tell us they want this type of count system installed in their facilities," he said. "We actually received a photograph from a customer who told us to make his system look like the photo. It was a shot of the count display at The Grove."
The issue of vehicles moving up the down ramps and disturbing the accuracy of the floor counts can be eliminated by using bi-directional counters on the ramps, Flanigan added. Of course, that doubles the hardware and installation costs as it refers to the loop detectors embedded in the ramps. Often this is simply a budgetary decision made by the customer.

The displays were manufactured by Daktronics in Brookings, SD. The company's Web site is www.daktronics.com.
The facility is operated by Ampco System Parking.

Article Abstract from June, 2004




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