John Van Horn
Parking Today began research for this article with a premise. That is, many garages built today were designed not with pay-on-foot or pay-and-display, but with the more traditional pay-on-exit technology. We discovered that our premise was only partly correct.
Designer after designer told us that pay-on-foot was being “designed in” to a majority of their garages, or that they were either “contract only,” using card systems or suburban facilities with no controls at all. That having been said, a substantial number of facilities, both parking deck and surface lot, use the pay-on-exit mode.
Pay-on-exit is less expensive, makes design easier in many cases, and is arguably more customer service-oriented than automated systems.
In the typical system, a customer pulls a ticket, on entry, and parks. If there is a validation involved, they receive their validation from the company visited, and then proceed to the exit lane. At exit, the cashier either enters the entry time off the ticket into the cashier terminal or inserts the ticket in the terminal. The fee is calculated, money completed and the gate activated.
Some owners tell their designers that this personal touch at exit is important in a time of “pump your own gas” or “check out your own groceries.” It enables a visitor to have a positive contact at the exit lane upon leaving. That presupposes that the cashier is properly trained and motivated.
Cost seems to be the driving force in these systems. While one pay-on-foot machine can run upwards of $75,000, a lane of parking can be less than half that. In addition, depending on location and design, the pay-on-foot application can require a number of machines to cover multiple entry and exit locations, while pay-on-exit can often work well with just a few entry and exit lanes.
Usage is important when considering the choice of equipment. In an urban setting with high “daily” traffic, the pay-on-foot automated system may in the long run be operationally more cost effective as fewer staff may be required. However, in “office park” suburban settings with few visitors, a single exit lane, or a reversible design (as shown in the photo below), will have a much lower initial cost and a relatively inexpensive ongoing operational cost.
Such systems are not “low-tech.” The monthly “card” system is most often automatic vehicle identification (AVI) using transponders in the vehicles to speed entry and exit and enable drivers to proceed without stopping or even opening windows. The transponder is located either on the vehicle windshield or strapped under the car near the front bumper. The systems often work so well that the cars don’t even stop, but simply slow down to allow the gate to open.
The cashier terminals are networked and automated. They can take credit cards and are machine readable.
In many applications, credit card in/out is used. This means, often at airports, that the daily parker doesn’t pull a ticket but inserts their credit card to activate the gate on entry. On exit they use the same card, and the system, knowing the entry time of the card, computes the fee, charges the card, and the driver proceeds without cashier intervention. This greatly speeds up exit times, reduces the need for booths and equipment in a number of lanes, and often limits the number of staff needed to a single lane in a very large facility.
Booths, too, have gone through a design change over the past decade. Although typical “white” steel and glass booths are used in many applications, high-tech design, often specific to the project, is extremely popular. Developers see the parking booth as the last point of contact and are willing to foot the cost for attractive models that reflect the overall design of the project.
In smaller projects such as surface lots, the booth combines a cashier station with a parking office, providing a workspace for the facility manager, as well as a location for the cashier terminal and computer. In even smaller applications, this person is one in the same.
Has the pay-on-exit mode of parking gone the way of the passenger pigeon? Not in retrofits and exiting applications, say designers. In new garage designs, pay-on-exit is initially installed, but the facility is designed to be retrofit for pay-
on-foot, when occupancy and tenant mix change to fit the requirement.
In the application pictured, the owner selected Amano McGann
revenue control equipment, Sirit AVI, and B.I.G. Enterprises parking booths.
Article Abstract from August, 2007