Huge Entrance Back Ups Cause Pain for Popular Zoo
John Van Horn
Toronto Zoo calls itself Canada’s premier zoo; it’s a favorite stop for more than 1.2 million visitors a year. Its popularity translates into a very busy parking operation, with more than 250,000 vehicles using the zoo’s surface lots each year.
Peak attendance days, such as holidays or special event weekends, taxed the throughput of the zoo’s previous pay-on-entry scheme. This resulted in long lines of vehicles queuing at each of the zoo’s four entry lanes.
Additionally, auditing the parking revenue was a challenge as the entering vehicles were a mix of prepaid members and cash-paying day visitors.
In order to alleviate the long entry lines and increase audit control, Toronto Zoo released a public tender to provide a free entry parking system that will allow users to pay for their parking at the main pedestrian admission gate. On payment for parking, the zoo wanted to present visitors with a reusable validation that would be collected as proof of payment at the unattended exit.
Additional requirements included the need for this validation to be waterproof. This was driven by the fact that many visitors took the time to enjoy the zoo’s water park, which resulted in visitors often getting very wet.
A traditional token system was not specified. It didn’t have a strong audit facility and did not meet the technology requirement of the zoo.
The winning tender submission resulted in the installation of the first smart card system in Greater Toronto and the largest parking application in North America. Barrier gates were installed in a free running mode in each of the zoo’s four entry lanes. This permitted visitors quick entry while preventing unpaid exit from these lanes.
Each admissions cashier is equipped with an off-line smart card validator that is used to provide a quick validated plastic smart card to each guest who pays for parking. The zoo’s existing POS system – in combination with a count of cards distributed with each cashier till – provides the required audit control.
The guest is asked if they park in the zoo’s lot and, if so, they are charged for the parking in addition to their entrance and issued a validated exit smart card.
There is a second “class” of parker, a Toronto Zoo member. With an annual membership, they received a parking pass that allows them one exit per day. There are more than 35,000 members, each having parking privileges.
In the exit lanes, the driver inserts the validated parking smart card in the SCS exit lane terminal, triggering the gate to rise, allowing exit. Zoo members with prepaid parking passes are able to use their pre-issued smart card in the provided contactless readers to exit.
At the end of each day, staff retrieves the collected smart cards from the SCS exit terminals for redistribution to the cashiers for the next day.
Lines on entry disappeared, as did cashiers standing in the lanes wearing aprons and handling thousands of dollars in cash daily. Parking revenues were auditable (and increased), and visitors and members alike were able to quickly and conveniently leave the parking area without noticeable waits or long lines.
The installation was done by Canadian Parking Equipment/American Parking Equipment (www.cpeape.com) from their offices in Toronto.
Article Abstract from September, 2007