Garage Design Aids Revenue Control
Today’s parking facilities are being designed to accommodate state-of-the-art access/revenue control technology such as pay-on-foot machines, automatic vehicle identification (AVI) readers, and pay-on-entrance devices for events. This changing parking technology has made it easier for both the user and the operator. But to optimize this new technology, parking structure design must keep up with the pace of progress.
Considerations for Today’s Designs
Today’s parking revenue control technology such as AVI and pay-on-foot allows designers to eliminate or reduce the overall footprint of entrance/exit plaza(s). Because, in some cases, throughput can be nearly doubled over yesterday’s insertion or even proximity cards by the use of AVI technology, the number of lanes can be almost halved for contract parker use.
AVI also gives the designer more flexibility when it comes to gate placement. Traditional card systems force the user to reach out the car window to access the reader. This requires that cars get properly aligned at the equipment or drivers will not be able to use it without getting out of their vehicles. AVI technology does not demand this manual step by the driver, thus allowing more flexibility of gate and drive aisle placement.
Pay-on-foot technology also offers increased lane throughput over traditional booth systems. Additionally, pay-on-foot machines and exit verifiers eliminate the need for cashier booths on the islands. This allows the islands to be narrower in design and reduces the dimensions of the exits. The potential downside to this system is that it may require turnout lanes to allow patrons who haven’t paid to re-circulate back through the garage, park and pay. If these turnout lanes are used, the length of the equipment lanes must be almost tripled to allow the integration of this turnout.
In addition, the placement of the exit verifiers becomes crucial as vehicles must be allowed to easily reenter the garage’s traffic flow without having to back up in the lane. To add to the complexity of the design, the pay-on-foot stations themselves need to be strategically placed so that pedestrians can easily find them, and optimally, pass them as they go back to their vehicle. This will help minimize the number of people who forget to pay before getting to their vehicles.
Other design considerations must be taken into account. Today’s IP addressable systems allow the garage to be controlled from a remote location, eliminating the need for an on-site parking office. An IT room or electrical room can house the necessary server while all of the data are transmitted to a remote office off-site. The elimination of an on-site office allows more space in the garage to be utilized for parking. In addition, this often results in lowering manpower needs and thus costs for the garage.
When a parking office is desired, revenue control should be an important consideration in its design. It should have a separate manager’s office with a door that can be secured, as well as a floor safe with a drop slot that can be accessed from outside the office.
This will allow the manager to count cash and process deposits out of public view, and the drop slot allows cashiers to deposit their money into a secure safe without having to enter the manager’s office. The office also should be located next to the garage’s primary exit point, in case the equipment malfunctions and manual means have to be employed.
Designing for the Future
With the ever-increasing speed and spread of high technology, the future of parking and revenue control systems is almost unimaginable. We envision the cars of the future having built-in AVI systems to allow seamless interoperability between the needs of the garage and those of the overall transportation system.
Some car manufacturers have integrated such a system into their cars for internal manufacturing and distribution control. And it is already possible to use some toll tags in garages, for not only access but also payment. In the future, those toll tags will integrate with a GPS system for paying for tolls/fares based on not only time but also distance traveled. This type of system will be able to place the car in time as well as “space.”
Having real-time access to this type of information would be a boon for transportation management professionals and useful to garage users and operators. This integration will permit users to easily locate their vehicles by tracking them with their phones. These also could be integrated into the garage system so that available parking spaces could be shown on the car’s “infotainment” screen or the user’s phone. This would help reduce unwanted circling for available spaces and ensure that the garage is used to its fullest potential.
Theoretically, spaces could even be priced based on their desirability (covered/uncovered, distance from the final destination, driving distance) and charged accordingly, without the use of barrier gates or using other nesting methods. But due to difficulties in obtaining the satellite signals that the GPS relies on to fix their location, a GPS repeater system will be needed in most parking garages.
In short, such a system could handle both the contract parking needs of the facility and the visitor parking needs, in addition to maximizing the parking facility’s functionality for both end user and owner/operator.
Chris Prichard and Matt Feagins, who are in the Parking Consulting Services division of Walter P Moore, can be reached at (800) 364-7300.