System Design With Revenue Control In Mind
What does one think of when "designing for revenue control" is mentioned? Sixty years ago, it meant that when the attendant greeted you at the entry to the parking facility and collected a fixed amount, you would have considered how big a cigar box you should have in which to store the money. Not to discredit the parking attendants of that era, but a certain percentage of that money likely never made it into the cigar box, due purely to the fact that there were no revenue controls in place. Design? It made little difference.
Fast forward 25 to 30 years when the parking attendant used a time clock to stamp the entry time on a sequentially numbered ticket, which he gave then back to the parker. On exiting, the parker presented the time-stamped ticket to the attendant, who determined the length of time the patron had been parked with some reasonable degree of accuracy and arrived at the amount to be charged from a fee chart. He collected the parking fee and placed it in a cash register.
Designing for revenue control back then meant trying to ensure that the parking facility owner had some means to track the revenue and make the attendant accountable for the revenue at the end of his shift, plus maybe the entrance drives had to be a bit longer to allow room for parkers to queue while waiting for the transaction to be completed.
Today, we have much more sophisticated revenue control equipment. It likely uses machine-readable tickets with an automatic fee-calculation cash terminal, which is online to a host computer. The parker has the choice of paying for his parking with coins, currency or credit/debit card.
To reduce the time spent at the exit control lane and the operational cost for cashiers, many owners are now electing to use a pay-on-foot (POF) system where the parker pays his parking fee to a staffed - or more likely, an unstaffed - POF machine located where most parkers will pass before returning to their vehicle to leave the parking facility.
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Whether the parking operations system has no entry or exit control equipment; is the more traditional ticket in/cashier out; or is a more advanced POF, the overall design of the parking facility must take the operations system in mind early in the design process.
The first design concern is the number of control lanes and the vehicle reservoir space needed at each lane. The parking consultant can provide estimates by working with the project traffic consultant, who will estimate the peak-hour entry and exit volumes. The parking consultant also should advise the owner regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the various types of operational systems and parking equipment available.
With the traffic consultant's peak hour traffic volumes and the owner's decision on the operating system and equipment to be used, the parking consultant will be able to calculate the project's Traffic Intensity Factor (TIF) and arrive at the calculated lanes and reservoir space needed.
It is worth noting that the parking equipment selection is important in determining the number of vehicles that will be able to enter or exit during the peak hour. The speed of the ticket-issuing function varies depending on whether it is automatic or pushbutton. In addition, the throughput (the number of vehicles to go through a control lane in a given time period) for access control systems can vary significantly depending on the type of system chosen.
Keypads requiring the input of a digital access code or handheld remote devices are typically not used when throughput and security are important aspects. Today, the insert type of card readers are typically the slowest, and the least frequently used. The proximity card readers are the most used and have varying throughput rates depending on the read range being used. The access control system that is gaining in popularity is the automatic vehicle identification (AVI) readers. They provide parkers with exceptional convenience and a high level of throughput, and their purchase cost continues to decline.
The actual layout of the vehicle control lanes also is important when trying to achieve the greatest throughput.
One might think a wider control lane would tend to increase the throughput. However, the opposite will typically be true. If the lane is more than 9 feet wide, the parker will often position the vehicle too far from the ticket-issuing machine, the card reader or the cashier booth. This then requires the parker to lean out the window or actually open his door and step out of the vehicle. Either takes valuable seconds and tends to back up vehicles at the entry or the exit control lanes.
Another design flaw is the use of right turns into control lanes. Where they cannot be avoided, extreme care must be exercised or the ability of the parker to get properly aligned with the equipment will be seriously compromised, the throughput rate will suffer greatly and the parker will become significantly frustrated.
If the operations system is the more advanced POF system, it is important to understand the parkers' destination and control the path they take to return to their parked vehicles. It is best to locate a POF station at each of the primary locations where parkers will enter the facility before returning to their vehicle.
If there are a limited number of pedestrian entry points to the parking facility, this task becomes easier, and fewer of the relatively expensive POF stations are needed, reducing the owner cost for equipment. Once again, some decisions must be made early in the design process to determine if signage will replace the need for a POF stations and to insure that power, proper lighting and data communications are provided to them.
Designing for revenue control is neither a difficult nor costly task, unless you have not dealt with it before. For this reason, it likely will be a process in which your parking consultant will have much input.
Ron Saxton, formerly Principal-in-Charge of the Sherman Oaks, CA, office of International Parking Design, has more than 34 years of experience in the field of parking. He recently started his own firm: Parking Design Consulting. He can be reached at email@example.com.