Dublin Upgrades Parking Guidance VMS
By Pete Goldin
Dublin, Ireland, knows the value of variable message signs (VMS) for parking guidance. In fact, the city has employed signs displaying real-time parking availability data for the past 16 years. Unfortunately, those signs are now 16 years old, and Dublin is undergoing an essential VMS technology upgrade with the implementation of a new parking guidance system.
Dublin faces several challenges with the legacy VMS. First, the signs use electromechanical parts that are extremely difficult to obtain for replacement. The old signs also are limited to text displays and cannot display graphics. This makes multilingual messaging a necessity, which further complicates administration.
In addition, the old VMS system uses a proprietary serial communication protocol, which has limitations in terms of bandwidth, and requires the use of leased communication lines and dialup modem technology, which is costly to maintain and repair.
Leveraging New Technology
Dublin’s new parking guidance system will consist of three main components: car park out-stations, variable message signs and parking guidance management system (PGMS) software.
All existing car parks in the Dublin system maintain an inductive loop, raisable boom or similar technology for detecting the entrance and egress of vehicles. The new system will continue to use these devices. New out-stations will be installed on-site at each car park to collect and process the information relating to inbound and outbound traffic and occupied spaces.
All variable message signs in the system will be replaced with the latest sign technology. Dublin’s new VMS system will be a LED (light emitting diode) display, which is highly efficient and designed to operate in a low power mode. The LED display also will adjust automatically to ambient light conditions to further reduce power requirements.
The benefits of LED are a significant advancement over signage options from the mid-1990s, when Dublin’s first VMS system was put into operation for parking guidance.
Dublin’s new parking guidance system will feature 24 full-matrix variable message signs, which will be strategically placed throughout the city. Many of the previous VMS locations will continue to be used, with replacement signs, and several new locations also will be selected.
Dublin is taking advantage of full-matrix technology to ensure maximum visibility for the motorists, with a larger viewing area compared with previous signs, and optimum pixel quality and height of characters. The signs also offer internal shader-plate assemblies for viewing in full sunlight. The LED signs meet the optical standard EN12966-1 NTCIP Communication Protocol.
In addition, full-matrix technology offers Dublin pictogram and flexible text size options, which were not available before. The full graphic capability will allow Dublin to avoid displaying multilingual content.
All the VMS functionality will be remotely accessible by the PGMS, which will also provide the following improvements over the previous system: message storage, message scheduler, incident management, and fault management and reporting.
In addition, Dublin will be replacing 16 fingerpost-style signs. The parking information message for each fingerpost VMS will comprise one single line of text providing data on one car park. Scrolling text also will be used for longer messages. In terms of communications, the new installation will utilize high-speed downlink packet access) technology.
“A key decision by Dublin City Council was to specify the NTCIP (National Transportation Communications for ITS Protocol) standard for both in-station and out-station equipment,” said Brian Murray, council spokesman. “This standard covers all required functionality for this application and supports interoperability and interchangeability of traffic control and ITS devices; communications interface between hardware and software products of multiple vendors; and flexible expansion.”
Dublin’s new parking guidance system will be installed in multiple phases, with constant ongoing development. The initial implementation date is as yet undetermined, as the City Council is still evaluating vendors. Meanwhile, the old system will be kept operational to provide parking information to motorists.
Currently, there are 16 private car park operators on the system, and they all will have an opportunity to be included in the new system. “With the new system, all car parks will give up-to-the-minute occupancy counts, which will reduce the amount of traffic circulating for available parking,” Murray predicted.
Cashless Parking System
Dublin continues to remain on the cutting edge of parking technology. For example, the new parking guidance system will complement the City Council’s cashless Parking Tag system, put into operation in May 2009 – yet another indication that the city is working hard to make parking more convenient for residents and visitors.
Easy to use, the tag allows motorists to pay for on-street parking without buying a ticket from a machine. The bar-coded tag is simply displayed on the vehicle windshield while parked.
“Dublin is very much open for business,” then-Lord Mayor Eibhlin Byrne said last May, “and we are pleased to add parking tags to those initiatives, which provide the motorist with alternatives and make coming into our city centre a more convenient and pleasant experience for them.”
Pete Goldin is Technical Editor for Parking World, a sister publication of Parking Today. He can be reached at email@example.com.