Tag Archives: parking systems

Balancing the Post-pandemic Budget

Blog finance fundsBy Pamela Corbin, CAPP

There is little doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge effect on the budgets of parking systems throughout the country. Operating budgets are one of the most important work products in municipalities. They give the authority to incur obligations and pay expenses, allocate resources, and control how departments/programs/cost centers spend.

Governmental parking systems typically fall into one of two categories:

  • General Fund: comes from tax levies and is required by statute to have a lawful appropriation.
  • Enterprise Funds: used to account for operations that operate like a business enterprise with budgeted revenues and expenses in balance.

The City of Orlando is an Enterprise Fund with the requirement for our revenues to cover expenses; in the event they don’t cover, funds are pulled from retained earnings (reserves). During the economic downturn of 2007-2009, referred to by many as the Great Recession, the city parking system was out of balance. This resulted in the requirement to pull down from our retained earnings, and it was clear they could quickly get depleted. As a result, the parking system went through an extensive parking study and raised rates. This enabled us to balance our fund and as the economy recovered, we were able to continue with much-needed maintenance projects.

This pandemic has had the same effect on most of our systems, with impacts on some systems being greater than others. Whether you are an enterprise fund or get your funding through tax dollars, there will be challenging roads ahead as we move to ensure we have adequate funding to run our parking systems.

I have heard the topic of raising rates mentioned by various cities, but given the circumstances, this may present a great deal of public outcry. There is no doubt we will need to go deep into the think tanks to come up with new and innovative ways to balance our budgets through reducing our expenses.


Pamela Corbin, CAPP, is parking administration and planning manager with the City of Orlando, Fla.


Member News: Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport Chooses Park Assist

Park Assist News muhammad Ali Int AirportLOUISVILLE, KY – June 3rd, 2020 – Park Assist® has been awarded the Parking Guidance System (PGS) contract for Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF). Just 10 minutes from downtown, the International Airport supports over 4 million travelers per year with a high-volume of both passenger and cargo traffic. Park Assist’s M4 smart-sensor system will serve the airport’s 3,000 space parking structure. With the goal of enhancing the user experience, the Louisville Regional Airport Authority was eager to install a PGS that offered predictability and security, as well as a VIP parking journey for each patron.

Park Assist’s camera-based M4 PGS will monitor occupancy on levels 2 and 3 of the garage, while the S1 outdoor solution will be used to calculate rooftop availability. Along with the M4 and S1 technology, Park Assist will also install its state-of-the-art, digital Variable Messaging Signs (VMS). The VMS-NAV signs enable parking facility operators to create and broadcast an expansive set of custom graphics and digital messages in a variety of different colors. Coupled with split screen, scrolling, and toggling capabilities, these digital signs display a vast array of occupancy data, enabling visitors to make informed decisions upon their arrival at the entry lanes.

As wayfinding signage guides users to appropriate parking areas within the garage, Park Assist’s exclusive M4 smart-sensor system amplifies the guidance experience by indicating which specific spaces are available, occupied, or premium using color-coded LED lights.

Additionally, the airport’s PGS will also come equipped with several add-on features. Integrating with TIBA Parking Systems, Park Assist’s customer-centric Park Finder™ software module ensures that guests can easily pinpoint their vehicle upon returning to the garage. Utilizing either the Park Assist mobile app or a Park Finder enabled TIBA pay station, travelers are guided to the exact location of their vehicle. The Park Finder Find Your Car™ locator scours a database of vehicles in the garage and identifies the correct car, providing step-by-step directions on how to get there.

Park Assist’s Park Alerts™ and Park Surveillance™ add-ons will be used to increase control and security in the garage. The Park Alerts software extension allows parking management to set automated rules and alerts that help staff manage awareness and enforce parking policies in the facility, while Park Assist’s Park Surveillance module enables the M4 and S1 sensors to capture streaming video of any movement in or around parking spaces, serving as a proven deterrent of criminal behaviors.

“Park Assist is committed to providing each traveler at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport with accurate, real-time information that will help inform their parking decisions and further reduce friction on both sides of the customer journey. At the forefront of a world connected by technology, Park Assist is committed to creating an end-to-end experience through our PARCS system integrations and additional API capabilities,” said Robert Wishart, Regional Account Manager, Northeast.

Working with local partner, United Electric, Park Assist’s site work is set to begin this month and is slated for completion by September 2020.

“We are proactively preparing for the return of our customers and this technology will significantly improve the parking experience at SDF,” said Dan Mann, Executive Director for the Louisville Regional Airport Authority.

Prior to the planned work at Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport, Park Assist has been a coveted addition to several other major airports throughout the United States and Canada. Park Assist’s continued and proven success, as well as their growing technological capabilities and dynamic pricing integrations were key factors in Louisville Regional Airport Authority’s decision to install the M4 and S1 parking guidance systems.

About Park Assist
Park Assist® is the parking industry’s leading camera-focused innovator with the most camera-based parking guidance installations in the world. Our patented technology helps customers effortlessly find parking spaces in real-time as well as find their cars when they return. Simultaneously, we provide parking operators with tools to improve customer satisfaction, create new revenue opportunities, realize greater operational control, capture parker analytics and expand CCTV capabilities. Park Assist is part of the TKH Group (Euronext: TWEKA), a $1.8 billion publicly traded company headquartered in the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.parkassist.com.

Katie Rodenhiser
Global Marketing Manager

COVID-19 & the Curb: Private Sector Works to Adapt and Offer Creative Solutions

A woman in a medical mask and gloves hangs a "curbside pickup" sign.
Image: Downtown Santa Monica Inc.

This post is part of a special series on curb management and COVID-19. A joint effort of International Parking and Mobility Institute (IPMI), Transportation for America, and Institute of Transportation Engineer’s Complete Streets Council, this series strives to document the immediate curbside-related actions and responses to COVID-19, as well as create a knowledge base of strategies that communities can use to manage the curbside during future emergencies.

By Mae Hanzlik

Flexible curbside management is a small, but key, piece of many cities’ response to COVID-19. Often, these efforts have been supported or made possible with the support and technology of private-sector partners. Transportation for America reached out to its Smart Cities Collaborative sponsors to hear how they’re responding to COVID-19 and working with jurisdictions to adapt curbside management.

Adapting their platforms and launching new tools

To accommodate increased food takeout and deliveries, Coord, a curbside management software company, is offering their platform at no cost for 90 days to cities in its coverage area. Coord also worked with existing city customers who were identifying locations for temporary loading zones and fast-tracked specific feature requests.

Downtown Santa Monica Inc. (DTSM), a business improvement nonprofit in Santa Monica, Calif., used Coord’s data collection and analysis to help them quickly stand up a program where essential businesses could temporarily convert metered parking into short-term loading. “[We] were looking for any opportunity to support our district businesses during the COVID-19 crisis,” Benjamin DeWitte, DTSM’s research and data manager, shared with us. “Our prior research into curb usage, driven by COORD data collection and analysis, indicated that a shift from metered parking to short-term loading could positively impact access and efficiency for those who rely on delivery and take out business.”

Populus, whose data platform helps cities manage their curbs, streets, and sidewalks, is working with their existing city customers to provide digital solutions that support “Open Streets” and “Slow Streets”. They’re also inviting cities and agencies to apply to their Open Streets Initiative where they’ll partner with a handful of cities on implementing dynamic street policies and provide them with complimentary access to their Street Manager platform. The deadline to apply is May 15.

Lacuna, a transportation technology company, is launching a dynamic curb reservation system in May that allows cities to remotely allocate sections of curb in real-time to accommodate deliveries of food, freight, and other essential supplies.

Establishing internal teams to work directly with cities

Uber has put together an internal team that’s dedicated to working with cities and stakeholders to ensure safe access points for trips to essential places like hospitals, grocery stores, and pharmacies. They are also reaching out to cities to learn how they can best support city efforts to ensure adequate space for social distancing, offering the use of geofencing and in-app routing changes to support car-free streets.

Preparing for the future

A number of companies are starting to think about what the world may look like post-COVID. Passport, a parking and mobility software company, is starting virtual conversations through its webinars on the future of the mobility industry and the equity impacts of cashless payments.

Strong public and private partnerships are key to emergency response. We hope to continue to see the private sector work alongside municipalities to offer support and transformative tech solutions.

Mae Hanzlik is a program manager for Transportation for America in Washington, D.C.



Careful Considerations

TPP-2016-01-Careful ConsiderationBy Pierre Koudelka

I wrote an article last year about parking equipment and new applications in which I said, “Our system of specifying, purchasing, and managing, for whatever reason, is far too accepting of the status quo” (See the January 2015 issue of The Parking Professional). Since then, lots of parking folks have asked me what I meant. So I felt this might be a good topic for a new article on what to be aware of and how best to purchase parking equipment (PARCS).

Outdated Specifications
For those of you who feel PARCS specifications within an RFP guarantees you get what you requested, please think again. The simple fact is that most specifications written today are general in nature in order to encompass the offerings of just about every manufacturer, in my opinion. Bidders have a great deal of leeway in what they provide. Specifications do a fair job at outlining the number of gates and dispensers/verifiers at entrances or exits, cashier booths, or pay-on-foot machines in foyers. That is easy. But these specifications do little to explain the true operating functionally of the internal system, the central computer parameters, the networks, and the quality guidelines of the installation—in fact, those details are seldom specified. Why?

Have you ever seen an RFP outline quality standards for the equipment, life expectancy requirements, or estimated maintenance cost over the system life? Not really. How can anyone truly make an informed buying decision without these facts?

Specification writers are in a catch-22: If they are too specific, they may exclude someone and risk legal actions. Past suits have caused many to generalize, and more than that, specifications simply have not kept up with technology. Many are canned, often disjointed, or worse, copied and pasted in a mélange of several opposing manufacturers’ offerings that, when combined, make little sense and ask for things that are impossible to produce as written. So to be fair and avoid those issues, many RFPs generalize on what the system is to do.

Sometimes, they are too specific. The problem is that the equipment available from a large number of manufacturers varies tremendously in capability and quality and very few writers are able to capture that aspect in writing RFPs. The result is that ­feature-filled manufacturers have to pare down, and products that lack features become accepted. All this boils down to a judgment call at the end of the day. It may be a well-thought-out call, but it still often comes down to price, location of the nearest service outlet, and delivery time, and presumably, the one that complies with most of those wishes wins the contract. So here’s my first piece of advice: Always get an experienced consulting firm to sort it out—that goes for the individual the manufacturer assigns to your account as well.

I have experienced too many badly written RFPs that come from people with no parking experience, and everybody suffers: the owner, the installer, the manufacturer, and the writer. It results in countless questions back and forth, substantial delays, re-bids, having inappropriate systems installed, and sometimes, regrettably, legal action, although these are seldom publicized. Most bidders try to do the best they can interpreting specs, but interpretation can vary greatly. Without a good set of metrics to compare to and follow, buying decisions can be arbitrary. It’s that simple.

Truth be told, even the projects that seem to go well are sometimes over-specified as well and the facility winds up using only a small portion of the resulting system despite the best efforts of the spec writer. This is because, as human beings, we tend to only use features that are fast, familiar, and easy to master. All the rest of the techno-babble that’s specified and paid for seldom gets used. I would say, with a few exceptions, only 30 percent of any system is actually used. Surprised? It’s analogous to the thousands of features within Microsoft—how many do you really use, assuming you’re not an IT expert?

Lesson two: Don’t pay for over spec’d items if they aren’t going to be used. Also, take the time to ensure all those features will be used as they were intended.


There are several steps to follow to ensure your RFP process goes smoothly and that you end up with the system you were shopping for in the first place. Here are 11 points to think about when you start:

Do your own due diligence. Don’t leave it all up to someone else. Check the supplier’s financials. Check and visit references. Most importantly, visit the manufacturer’s facility whenever possible. Obviously not everyone can do that, but you should if your project is large enough. A thousand-dollar airfare is a small price to pay to ensure satisfaction. The minute I walk into a manufacturer’s facility, I can tell if the resulting product will be good or bad, and so can you. Check the quality stations. Is the facility automated or not? Is it clean or dirty? Is there a lot of product on the floor?

Think big picture. Don’t just look for features your project needs today when selecting a vendor. Look to the future. Investigate the supplier’s entire software library, as your requirements will change down the road. You must make sure the supplier has the required software/hardware to accommodate your needs in the future, even if all those functions aren’t needed today. Too many clients find themselves in a pickle three or four years down the road with a system that can’t easily be added to or improved. Above all, make sure that the feature or device you are being sold has been proven to work. This is especially important with startups.

Try it. Don’t be afraid to ask the manufacturer for free software demo samples you can take home to play with for a week or so to let your people experience the inner workings of the system before you buy anything. Why would a reliable supplier say no? Plus, this will help involve staff in the decision process, which is always a smart move.
I would be very suspicious of any supplier who’s reluctant to provide free demo software for a time period. After all you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. You test-drive a new car—why not test-drive new software as well? Remember when trying out software that an important feature is its ease of use. The only software that will be used is the software that is easy to use.

Ditch source code. The antiquated notion that you must request source code to protect your company in case the firm you are dealing with goes under is a total waste of time and money and should be stricken from all specifications. In my 40+ years in the industry, I have seldom seen anyone use such codes after the fact. Third parties trying to work on these codes find it too hard and expensive.

Distrust the yes man. Understand up front that bidders are likely to say their companies and products can meet the demands outlined in an RFP. And depending on their individual perspective, they probably can somehow. But most specs, due to their general nature, are open to individual interpretations. The trick is to not accept a mere “yes” answer but to take time to assess the user-friendliness of the feature the supplier intends to provide. For someone to simply say, “Yes, I can give you this or that report specified” is no longer acceptable. The “yes” has to be explained in detail. As the purchaser, you need to know if that report can be generated by either a single keystroke or will take dozens of keystrokes and the manual merging of other reports and so on before you get your required report. Understand that if the system isn’t user-friendly, that function you paid for will likely never be used. That’s simple human nature. Specifications today do not measure or define user-friendliness.

Consider staff. Owners often underestimate the complexity and sophistication of the parking systems they are purchasing. Existing staff may not be qualified to run the new operation. Examine and quantify staff competence before buying. It’s becoming an IT world, and you need savvy people to run all these computers and networks. Minimum wage knowledge and a little training doesn’t do it anymore. System problems are often people problems. It’s easy to blame the system for staff misunderstandings.

Remember that you get what you pay for. All systems are definitely not equal, and to think they are does your operation a great disservice. Don’t buy a parking system off a cut sheet, say-so, or brochure. Go look at the equipment. Lift the hood and look inside. Try and appreciate the quality differences that affect price. There are many differences specifications never begin to cover. You’re guaranteed to see differences if you actually look for them. Does the manufacturer use brass/nylon bushing or ball bearings? Are parts sheet metal or machined? What is the quality of their service support? Will the equipment rust prematurely? Even the way it’s wired together can tell you a lot. Is it neat? Look at the PC boards. Are the chips surface mounted or not? All this tells you where the manufacturer is in the evolutionary scale of assembly. I used to count the number of direct DRIVE rollers in a ticket transport unit to get a feel for its quality. The more, the better if you don’t want jams. And if there is a ticket jam, can it be removed easily?

Ask about installation. What of the quality of installation of the parking equipment? I have never seen a specification define installations very well. It’s assumed that the contractor will do the work under the prevailing codes, I guess. Let me tell you, I have seen many a poor installation after the fact in which the contractor made up for an initial low bid on the equipment by cutting back in the installation. Very cheap switches, underrated wires, bad loops, cheap or improper connectors (especially when it comes to fiber), no expansion provision on conduit, equipment installed but not level, inadequate power, and the list goes on. These inconsistencies cause system problems that are sometimes hard to find after the fact and result in downtime and a shorter equipment lifespan.

Ask about lifetime costs. The industry has been remiss in its ability to either understand or analyze quality and longevity of equipment or systems. I have never seen a specification that documented service or maintenance costs over the life of that particular equipment. What is the life expectancy of the equipment? You would think that would be a key factor in the buying decision process, but it seldom comes up. That’s in part because it requires far more effort and no one wants their comparative analysis of suppliers to be potentially wrong, or those recommending often have a short-term outlook because of contractual obligations. The industry must do better. When spending millions, you need facts, not fiction.

Remember, price can be deceiving when specifications are general. The simple fact is that those systems that seemed inexpensive up front will more than likely cost you far more than the highest priced bidder in the long run, sometimes by a considerable amount. Owners should be made aware of this fact. Recommendations for inexpensive solutions are often driven by ulterior motives or length of contracts, so you always need to understand where and why the recommendation is being made. You always get what you pay for.

Never stop looking for ways to improve your operation. Consider adding more conveniences for your patrons and simplifying the managerial process with new technology. There are countless ways to increase profits that are not called out in original RFPs. Dozens of innovations come out every few months. I simply don’t see these experts doing a great job of follow-up with their clients every two or three years to make recommendations on improvements that would benefit the client.

Keeping Up
We seem to be very slow at accepting new innovations in North America. It may be our conservative nature, possibly complacency; maybe it’s our purchasing process itself or a sense of needlessly upsetting the apple cart when an owner seems content, or maybe the fees for suggestions simply aren’t there after the fact. However perfect you may think your operation is, you can always increase revenues and customer satisfaction by 10 or 15 percent—that’s been my experience. Stay informed by attending trade shows and continually asking your facility manager for new suggestions. No car park should remain stagnant. Improvements should happen regularly or you’re really falling behind.

This may seem a harsh criticism of the way things are done, but the RFP process has regrettably not changed in quite some time, but technology has. Any newcomer to the industry should be aware of these 11 points to save themselves a ton of heartache. Granted, some installations go along perfectly to everyone’s satisfaction, but many more projects have had issues that could have been resolved up front had some of these suggestions been followed. There are many other safeguards one can take, but we will leave those for another time.

Good luck in your buying decisions going forward, but never leave it entirely to luck or to others.

Pierre Koudelka has 45 years of parking experience globally as a leading manufacturer, parking consultant, and author. He can be reached at jean.pierre.koudelka@gmail.com.

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