What’s Happening with Parking at ORD, LAX

I have spoken to a number of PARCS (Parking Access Revenue Control Systems) suppliers and discover that both Chicago’s O’Hare and Los Angeles International airports are “going out” for new parking control systems. What I didn’t realize was just how antiquated the existing at the number 2 and number three largest airports in the country are.

I’m told that after ‘walking’ the airport’s parking operations in preparation for bidding, vendors shake their heads. The existing systems are ‘off line’, have little or no license plate inventory, and the most amazing, in a number of the garages at LAX, there are push buttons in the booths to override the cashier terminals, such as they are.

The equipment is typically a hybrid of a number of manufacturers, most decades old and long past the point of original vendor support. LAX has gone out at least once in the past five years for a new system, but the price was deemed too high.

Its hard to believe that the operators didn’t provide the airports with information concerning the issues with the equipment. So I wonder why the powers that be have taken so long to carry on with the process of replacing the equipment. With upwards of $75 million in revenue at O’Hare and $150 million at LAX, it would seem that there would be an incentive to upgrade the technology that ensures that all the revenue is collected.

One wry vendor told me that he would be shocked if the revenue increase that typically is seen after an equipment upgrade wasn’t enough to pay for the installation, which is bound to cost tens of millions, in 18 months.

Its lucky there is a separation between landside and airside at airports because if not, planes might be landing at night between cars lined up along each runway with their lights on.

I guess I can sort of understand when building owners don’t replace equipment that can ensure increases in revenue. After all, the parking take is often a small part of the total revenue of a building project. However at an airport, the parking fees are often number one or two in revenue, behind or just ahead of landing fees.

A lot of airports have upgraded their parking systems in the past few years. Phoenix, Portland, Seattle, Las Vegas, Denver, Baltimore, JFK/LaGuardia/Newark, Boston, Atlanta and many others. One wonders why its taken these two so long to catch up.

UPDATE: I understand the Dulles International Airport in DC is also in the process of bidding its revenue control system. I don’t know a lot about that project but with three major system in the works this fall it will be a busy time for PARCS suppliers.




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