Tag Archives: TPP-2012-02-

Doing It Right

TPP-2012-02-Doing It RightBy William Timmer

Up until late 2010, Tacoma, Wash. was one of the few U.S. cities with a population of more than 200,000 that did not have some form of paid on-street parking. The downtown retail core is zoned for mixed use with commercial space for a full range of business activities. It is located between outstanding views of Mt. Rainer, Puget Sound’s Commencement Bay, and the Olympic Mountain range. There are active restaurant, museum, and theater districts. The University of Washington, Tacoma campus is located on the south edge. A mix of residential accommodations supports an active street-level retail community. Light rail serves the core from a nearby transit hub and parking complex. The 1,600 on-street spaces are complemented by about 2,500 city-owned and more than 7,800 privately owned off-street spaces.

Not unexpectedly, the free on-street spaces were heavily used. Peak occupancy exceeded 90 percent for the majority of the block faces. Survey data indicated that about half of all downtown auto trips were associated with employment travel. Of these, 59 percent of drivers regularly used on-street spaces and chain parked to avoid time limit parking citations. More than 60 percent of local merchants and their customers thought on-street parking was extremely hard to find and that the high occupancy made it difficult for customers to get to where they wanted to go.

The business community was also united in its opposition to instituting paid on-street parking. They feared paid parking would drive businesses and customers to the free parking environment at the mall located several miles south. That, they said, would turn their retail core into a ghost town.

Times change and so do parking scenarios. Today, there are about 1,500 paid on-street parking spaces in the downtown area that were designed to provide customer access. Almost every block has one to two open spaces at all times. University of Washington student bus pass purchases are up about 100 percent when compared to spring 2010 levels, and the parking program has the support of the majority of downtown stakeholders.
What caused this modern miracle in the acceptance of paid on-street parking? How was entrenched opposition to paid parking turned into active support of the program?

Trust and Transparency
The first step was to build a level of public trust in the city-directed problem solving process. There was already a general acceptance that the downtown core had an on-street parking problem that affected retail merchants. This was supported by a series of parking intercept surveys that were conducted under the guidance of the Tacoma Public Works Department. These surveys provided City Manager Eric Anderson with the background and justification to initiate an extensive public outreach program. At the same time, a group of downtown business owners began to meet to investigate possible solutions to the on-street parking problems.

Over a period of nine months, Anderson and city staff conducted a series of 16 public fact finding and feedback meetings with various members of the downtown community. The first series of meetings was designed as listening forums around the subjects of, “How is the current parking system impacting you,” and, “What are your concerns about possible solutions?” Community questions and issues were recorded and researched.

The second series of meetings focused on communicating an understanding of the concerns that were raised by the community and providing direct answers to as many of the questions as possible.

One of the key issues continued to be the perception that the city would immediately treat paid parking as an easy source of future general fund revenue. Rates would be set to fill budget gaps instead of managing customer parking access. Another concern was that the system’s operating parameters and rules would be set without considering perceived community needs. It was apparent that the downtown stake holders were concerned about losing control and influence once they agreed to drop their opposition to paid parking.

Anderson, in conjunction with the Tacoma City Council, created and passed two ordinances to directly address the issues of paid parking revenue and system control. The first created a parking enterprise fund to separate the revenues from city-controlled on- and off-street parking from the general fund. Both parking fees and parking citation revenue were directed to the enterprise fund, to be used exclusively for parking-related facilities and expenses.

The second ordinance created a permanent Parking Advisory Task Force, to be made up of volunteer representatives of the downtown stake holders group. The task force was given the responsibility to advise the city manager on parking system design and control features. This ordinance also established the principle that parking rates could be raised or lowered as necessary to achieve a 15 percent parking space vacancy rate during peak parking periods.
The original 12 task force members were selected from a group of more than 125 downtown community participants from the original series of outreach meetings. Each member was chosen to represent a cross-section of residential, business, and restaurant owner, employee, theater district, and university stake holders.

Task Force Support and Resources
With the formation of the task force, city staff quickly moved to an active supporting role in the development of a paid parking system. In addition to their role in clarifying ordinances and traffic and right-of-way requirements, they provided the task force with consultant support for meeting facilitation and on-street parking expertise. They also conducted a competitive bid and award process for a full-service parking system, including modern parking payment equipment, system installation, maintenance, and collections services.

The task force agreed to meet twice a month for the first six months of the system design and implementation process. Meetings were limited to two hours per session and led by three co-chairs, who were responsible for pre-planning each work session. Decisions on each of the work items were considered against a set of guiding principles created by the original downtown business owners group:

The on-street parking system prioritizes the customer/visitor as the desired on-street parker.
The parking system ensures a 15 percent vacancy of on-street stalls (one in six open spaces per block).
The parking system is easy to use and understand for visitors and others new to the system.

The task force’s work list included every facet of the design of the new paid parking system, including days and hours of operation, initial parking rates and durations, and sign design and pay station graphics. The typical working meeting agenda contained three to four new topics for discussion with pre-work provided the week before the meeting. As each topic reached a decision point, the task force voted for a recommended solution.

Each initial decision was held over to the following meeting to allow task force members to consult with other members of the downtown community whose interests they represented. These views were brought back at the next meeting and shared with the group. Following an open discussion of this expanded input, a final recommendation vote was conducted. These recommendations were summarized and reviewed with the city manager by the task force co-chairs.

Once a month, an hour of one of the meetings was open to the public, and community members were encouraged to attend. The public sessions included updates on system recommendations as well as an opportunity for the community to share any concerns that they might have.

Community Outreach and Involvement
In addition to the monthly community feedback meetings, the task force and city staff developed an extensive public outreach campaign. There were two key objectives of this program: the first was to proactively educate the community prior to the start of paid parking, and the second was to have the task force become the public relations interface with the community. Having messages concerning the new parking system delivered to the community by members of the community became the single most effective public relations decision made during the implementation period. The city supported these efforts by creating a parking website and an instructional video, and providing task force access to and media training from a professional public relations firm.

In practice, key task force members replied directly to public concerns either through in-person discussions, email, or the media. Most queries to city staff were referred to the task force co-chairs, who established a reputation for expeditious, consistent responses.

To proactively address community questions, city staff, particularly Parking Services Manager David Carr and members of the parking enforcement group, committed themselves to reaching as many downtown parking users as possible before the go-live date. These personal meetings and presentations were instrumental in building an outstanding community relationship, which helped maintain the positive perception of the pay station program that continues to this day. These efforts included attending numerous community events and visiting almost every downtown business, going door-to-door and store-to-store with marketing materials that explained the process. Maps showing off-street parking, brochures sharing information on alternative commuting options, and other materials helped to not only explain the program, but offer new alternatives to parking on the street all day.

Special “house parties” were also held at local businesses, giving nearby business owners the opportunity to see a live pay station demonstration and to have their questions and concerns answered. All of the comments received from these meetings were recorded and reviewed with the task force.

As part of the business community involvement, the project implementation team pre-identified the location of each
of the parking payment kiosks. Business owners were asked to comment on the proposed locations, and changes were made as necessary. This process also opened the door to addressing apprehensions, myths, and misconceptions, often on the street in front of the business. All of these actions contributed to a sense of business community input into the new paid parking system as well as a belief that unintended consequences would not be ignored.

Lessons Learned
With more than a year to reflect on the paid parking implementation process and results, there are several conclusions that can be summarized for other municipalities contemplating similar parking management changes. It is essential that both the city and the community share a common understanding of the parking problem and its associated solution objectives. Community support increases when there is a mechanism to link parking rates/revenue to system performance objectives rather than overall city budget needs. The affected stakeholders need to have real influence on system design and control parameters. And finally, the stakeholders need the time and resource support to function effectively as the face of the system to the parking public.

William Timmer is principal at Bluewater Management Services, LLC. He can be reached at wtimmer@bluewaterpm.com or 206.790.3610.

TPP-2012-02-Doing It Right


TPP-2012-02-IlluminatingBy Philip Lavee

The historic Hills Plaza building in San Francisco’s South of Market waterfront district is home to high-profile companies including Google and global architecture and design firm Gensler. When global commercial real estate services company Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) decided to upgrade the lighting in the parking garage, they wanted a solution that would be as forward-thinking as their tenants.

Hills Plaza is a 3.2 acre multi-use complex with two popular restaurants and 64 luxury condominium suites atop a main commercial office building. The 186,000 square-foot, two-level parking area serves occupants with considerably different needs. The building management team had considered a switch to wireless lighting controls for the garage for several years, but until recently, had not found a solution that could meet all of their goals.
Goals and Implementation

The Hills Plaza team had several criteria for the upgrade. They wanted to mitigate rising energy costs, enhance security throughout the parking area, improve lighting control and light levels, enable Automated Demand Response (ADR), and implement more sustainable operating procedures. In keeping with the building’s history of using cutting-edge facility management tools, the team also wanted to use the most advanced lighting control technology available.

Although retrofitting the 175 existing fixtures with a wireless system was a viable option, the Hills Plaza management team decided to upgrade their 22-year-old rusted strip fixtures with new vapor-tight fluorescent fixtures that are factory-installed with wireless light controllers. Fixtures installed in critical areas, such as drive intersections, were equipped with occupancy sensors. Once installed and online, only 45 sensors were needed to wirelessly control all 175 lights; each fixture can be programmed to respond to multiple specific occupancy sensors. The control strategies deployed in this garage were occupancy detection, demand response, and smart scheduling, and all were accomplished with the use of dimming. In a vacant condition, light fixtures are at a uniformly dimmed state of 20 percent light output. When the area is occupied, the maximum light output is 80 percent.

The system in place at Hills Plaza responds to the real-time use of the garage. When a vehicle drives in or a pedestrian walks off the elevator, sensors respond by not only raising the light level in the occupied area, but ahead of the vehicle and foot traffic as well. This is called predictive lighting. The networked system represents a considerable departure from the conventional method of hardwiring occupancy sensors to specific fixtures, lighting only specific areas. The enhancements to both occupant comfort and safety are made possible by an intelligent system.

The predictive response is enabled by a variety of factors:
Built-in occupancy sensors are located on fixtures spread throughout the garage.
Occupancy zones are defined down to the fixture level and aggregated into flexible groupings, responding to real-time movement within the garage.

Occupancy sensor timeouts are remotely programmable and easily adjustable.
Some features came about after staff worked in the newly-retrofitted garage and asked for changes to be made. For example, building engineers realized the area outside the door to the maintenance offices would be better illuminated if a sensor detected exiting staff before they actually opened the door. An occupancy sensor was installed in the hall to do that.

The system enables both manual and automatic load shedding in response to utility requests. While the building engineers have not yet decided to automate their demand response with local electric utility PG&E, the Automated Demand Response (ADR) capability was one of the reasons JLL chose to invest in the system they did; should Hills Plaza decide to participate in the program, activating the system is simple. This would allow building management to take advantage of attractive smart grid incentives, further increasing the total system energy and financial savings.

Smart Scheduling
The top floor of the garage mostly serves the restaurant, bar, and offices and has a considerably different usage profile than the bottom floor, which is primarily used by building staff and condominium tenants. The vacancy light level was set at 20 percent throughout the facility, allowing for the underground structure to be semi-lit at all times. The condominium owners, however, asked that the minimum lighting level in their area be increased slightly. The programming change to raise the standby level of that area to 40 percent was completed in minutes.

After the system had been active for several weeks, the team noted the condominium parking area and spaces immediately outside the engineering offices on the lower level were rarely accessed after normal business hours. A schedule was added to turn off the fixtures near the engineering office from 12:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. each day and lower the condo parking area lights as well.

Maintenance is simplified with the retrofit as well. The networked solution streamlines lighting maintenance and reduces security risks by notifying the management team of lamp or ballast failure. The system checks for lamp and ballast failure by tracking real-time energy use at the fixture level and monitoring for any variation from the intended power consumption. When a flood from one of the restaurants leaked through the conduit and disabled one of the garage’s new fixtures, the system immediately generated an alert with location-specific details.

The Hills Plaza engineering team makes good use of the system’s analysis and reporting tools to review the facility’s use patterns in each area of the garage. Because of this, they have been able to adjust control strategies for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. Using this information, they decided to turn off the fixtures in a little-used storage section of the lower level of the garage when vacant, saving 20 percent more energy when the lights are on standby in that area.

The wireless lighting control system in place at Hills Plaza has met and surpassed the goals of the retrofit. The system has saved more than 24,000kWh since being activated in March 2011, representing a total demand savings of 40.5 percent kW over the old system. Ongoing savings are reported in real time on the system dashboard. Current and projected kWh savings and the percentage they represent are summarized below.

Philip Lavee is vice president, sales and marketing for Adura Technologies. He can be reached at plavee@aduratech.com or 415.547.8140.


Permits? What Permits?

TPP-2012-02-Permits What PermitsBy Alan M. Rucker and David Davitaia

Nearly 25,000 daily parkers use lots and count on the Department of Transportation to provide an accurately enforced and cost-effective approach to parking at the University of Maryland, College Park. Decades ago, the backbone of that system was bumper stickers indicating lot assignment, and while extremely cost effective, it was significantly unfriendly to customers. A different vehicle, a rental car, or a newly-purchased car resulted in calls to the office and a new sticker being issued or tickets incorrectly being written. The desire for portability moved the department to rearview mirror hangtags, which provided immeasurable customer convenience, but created loopholes that were challenging to overcome. Parkers would switch vehicles without bringing their permits, forget to display the tags, or worse yet, the permit could be altered, copied, loaned, or shared. When coupled with a desire to reduce the annual cost of the permit order (approximately $80,000) it was imperative that we figure out a new and better way to regulate parking for our customers.

For the University of Maryland (UMD), that way manifested itself in the technology of license plate recognition (LPR). While the technology itself has been used for years at other locales such as airports and hospitals to note whether a vehicle was present, the unique nature of our parking system, lot assignments, and myriad restrictions and regulations made creating an infrastructure for the technology no small feat. The benefits were clear, as the system itself (which cost approximately $40,000 per truck) would pay for itself after just two years of not ordering hanging permits. The questions were more about implementation—how to roll this out to a very high need-to-know campus community, and how to make the system as error-free as the hanging permits had been.

For campuses or organizations considering the switch to a virtual environment and LPR, the changeover at UMD should provide a valuable roadmap about what to expect and how to implement such a seismic shift of operational policy. First and foremost was testing the equipment to ensure that the key functions of reading and recognizing license plate information actually worked. UMD started small, purchasing one unit and using it to enforce our scofflaw “hot tow” lists. We quickly saw that the system did indeed work, as the effectiveness for the tow list showed that using LPR technology for scofflaw violators would pay for itself even without the transition to a permitless campus. Having seen that the system did indeed work, it was now on us to undertake the challenge of making the system work for more than just tows. Thus began an 18-month process of weekly project management that would catapult UMD into the 21st century of parking enforcement and beyond.

The Change
It became clear almost immediately that this new way of operations would require more than enforcement to institute a change. The impact of this systemic alteration was immense and far-reaching, touching nearly every aspect of our department. It was most helpful that key constituents were identified immediately in the realms of information technology, customer service and operations, enforcement, and public relations, and each of these primary stakeholders’ attendance at any LPR related function or workgroup was mandatory. At each of these weekly meetings, the key voices for project implementation were present and required to speak for their unit and function. The process wouldn’t have gone as smoothly without this considerable amount of forethought and group function.

After identifying the key team members, UMD decided to start the changeover with the student population, for several reasons. Most notably, it was likely that students would feel far more comfortable with the shift from in-person permit operations to an entirely virtual registration with no physical hangtag. Additionally, student parking and more importantly, student payment are significantly less complicated than faculty/staff parking and the various restrictions and payroll deduction. It was imperative that the project be eased into operations to address potential problems or roadblocks without the entire campus community being affected. If student registration and implementation went smoothly, the implementation of faculty/staff parking would follow suit. The steps for implementation began to be formed as a tiered approach that allowed this project to be successful.

First and most important was the technological backbone of the system itself. As one might imagine, a technological wonder such as LPR has immense amounts of infrastructure. The amount of data required to operate a permitless campus is simply staggering. First, a lot table must be created for the zones of enforcement. At the University of Maryland, that means roughly 65 parking lots, all with different restrictions and allowances, had to be created in the system before enforcement could begin. Once that backbone of allowances was created, the data of virtual permit numbers and the affiliated license plates had to be imported from our parking software before the zone file would be able to tell which cars belonged and which did not. Gathering that information required us to somehow compile vehicle information for roughly 12,000 student parkers and 10,000 faculty/staff parkers, which hadn’t been gathered before.

Our customer service and public relations units became invaluable. Through a targeted marketing campaign, students were informed nearly three months in advance of the registration request period that they would not receive hanging permits, but would have to provide at least one vehicle tag that would become their permit. Fail-safes were implemented throughout the registration process to ensure accuracy of data, including checking that tags with numeric “0”s were not, in fact, alphabetic “O”s. Failure to ensure the most accurate data would result in incorrect citations being issued and could result in the entire project being scrapped before it was fully implemented.

We took our message and idea to the people. Department representatives met with members of student government, the residence hall association, and dozens of other departments throughout the campus. Ensuring our customers knew what was happening, how the system would work for them, and that they wouldn’t be cited incorrectly was perhaps the most important thing done to ease the transition to a permitless operation.

Avoiding those incorrect citations was of extremely high importance. Anyone receiving a parking citation isn’t in the best of moods, but when that citation is incorrectly issued, that’s the worst-case scenario. To have that occur on a highly political collegiate campus was simply unacceptable. It became vital to ensure that enforcement was well-trained and comfortable with the system.

It’s important to note that LPR doesn’t take the place of enforcement at UMD. There is still a human behind the wheel who decides whether to enforce a potential violation. What has changed, however, is the enforcement officers being required to see each and every permit. The LPR system notifies the officer that a vehicle is parked in violation and the enforcement process begins just as it did under the hanging permit system.

Once the informational infrastructure was in place, our customers were educated, the public’s information collected, and the enforcement team trained on this new way of operations, it was necessary to ensure that departmental documentation and violations were updated to accurately reflect this change in philosophy. Things such as language on statements of account, violation codes and explanations, regulations, and policies all had to be comprehensively edited and altered. The word “permit” no longer applied, and as such, new guiding policies and explanations had to be formulated. It seems like a minor detail, but having incorrectly formed language or violations can result in overturned appeals or court dismissals on technicalities that could have been easily avoided.

Permitless student operations began in fall 2010, and faculty/staff followed in spring 2011. After the system was installed and implemented, additional customer convenience items were added. For example, a customer bringing a different vehicle to campus can go online and make a permanent or temporary change from their home, office, or smartphone. Additionally, the appeals process has seen a sharp downturn in the number of appeals submitted, presumably because there is no longer the time-honored loophole of “Your officer made a mistake,” or “I forgot my permit.” There are no longer altered permits, copied permits, or lost/stolen permits. The system itself has closed many of those loopholes and restored integrity to parking enforcement that was unreachable with hanging permits creating benefits across the board.

It is indeed a rarity that any parking solution is truly a win-win scenario. Oftentimes, the zero-sum nature of our business means that any one entity’s gain is another’s loss when it comes to the finances or new enforcement protocols. LPR creates the elusive benefit for all, providing customer-centric convenience, cost savings for the department, and an enforcement and appeals system that is laden with integrity and data rather than loopholes or contradictory statements. The changeover from hanging permit operations to a permitless virtual LPR operation is not for the faint of heart, but it is a process that has far-reaching positive impacts to the organization and the customers it serves if the process is well coordinated and well planned.

Alan Rucker is assistant director of the University of Maryland Department of Transportation. He can be reached at arucker@umd.edu or 301.314.9734.

David Davitaia is senior associate director of the University of Maryland Department of Transportation. He can be reached at ddavitai@umd.edu or 301.314.8077.

TPP-2012-02-Permits? What Permits?

From the Far Horizon

TPP-2012-02-From the Far HorizonBy David Hill, MA, CAPP, and J.D. Hassan

As parking professionals, we are no strangers to technological innovation; our industry turns on technology and new ideas and concepts are all around us. But every once in a while, a new idea comes along that has the potential to completely change the way our industry does its business, and the Skymeter smart meter is one such innovation.
In the winter of 2009, the Winnipeg Parking Authority had the opportunity to trial the first Skymeter prototypes in the city. It was a fascinating experience, and this article will pass along the technology concept, the results of the Winnipeg pilot, and subsequent developments.

The Skymeter Device

The Skymeter device is a wireless, autonomous, electronic meter the size of a smartphone that is installed on the dash or windshield of a vehicle and powered by the 12V dash outlet. It consists of software and several sensors, including GPS, with sufficient accuracy to determine the correct parking operator and correct parking charge virtually anywhere in the world. It also has a cell phone SIM card and memory for receiving and storing onboard time/fee tables (a billing database called a pricemap) and sending billing data.

The device records all parking events (place, time, and duration). It knows where it is at any moment—it knows when it is moving, when it is stopped, and for how long. It encrypts and stores this data and periodically transmits the resulting user bill for payable parking events to a third party invoicing organization for consolidation into monthly bills or direct account debit. The fee/time structures and geographical locations of parking zones are established by the parking service providers participating in the solution. They are stored onboard to avoid moving private location information from the vehicle; the transmitted billing information for each Skymeter user is forwarded to the customer management point, reconciled with the user account for each operator, and billed to the user each month. It is possible for the user to audit his own location data, but it is unnecessary for a parking authority to do so.

Through its geographic accuracy, the Skymeter can distinguish among any number of public and private parking operators and can accommodate any array of parking business rules (times, days, prices, and exceptions). It can do this securely and privately in all on- and off-street locations, including underground parking garages.
At the moment, Skymeter is best used as a service layer—in addition to traditional meters and gating systems, in the same manner as pay-by-cell parking—to accommodate frequent parkers who need to move around a busy city core or university center. In the future, however, these kinds of devices, fitted to vehicles and built into onboard devices in the same manner as iPods and Bluetooth, will pay for parking for us.

As the rate structures reside “in the cloud” and are updated wirelessly, they can be easily changed, adjusted, or modified to favor or discourage high and low parking demand zones, smaller vehicles, preferred locations, and preferred time segments. Parked vehicles can be easily counted with their numbers displayed and conveyed to the driving public without expensive hardware sensors or control systems. Skymeters can also be used to accommodate more advanced transportation management applications such as road tolling, emissions reduction, usage-based insurance, and road-use charging, as is currently being debated in Europe and Asia. Most valuable is that the Skymeter is completely hands-free and “brain-free;” once purchased and placed, it requires the parker to do absolutely nothing except park his car (legally) and pay his monthly bill. In a world where parkers seek and are willing to pay for simplicity in making their parking purchases, this is a welcome improvement over “pay by plate” technology, which burdens parkers with remembering their license plate numbers, parking zone numbers, and logging in or out.

The Skymeter is interesting to us as professionals because it is the first wireless device that uses pricing databases and sensor data in the cloud to manage payment, rather than metering hardware at the curbside or in the parking lot. It is a revolutionary concept because, beyond a small and inexpensive in-car device, it requires no other hardware to operate, and all costs and benefits can be passed directly to the user. The Skymeter is to parking what the cell phone has been to personal and business communications: a means whereby the customer buys the technology directly through consumer outlets and uses the service through remote communications, and the service provider simply provides the carrier.

A Revolutionary Concept
In addition to its inherent simplicity, what attracted me most to the Skymeter concept was its ready application to existing operations and ability to transform our traditional and complicated array of rates, times, conditions, fees, and regulations into simple usation charges.

The Skymeter could tell when a vehicle entered an underground garage, and when it exited—without the use of gates or control terminals—and send an accurate invoice based on time and space used at programmed rates for each customer. It could measure how long an on-street patron used a parking meter and construct an accurate map of the locations occupied, complete with date/time/fee data, and a street view image of the parking stall. It could consolidate all parking charges for each customer—on- and off-street, regardless of where they parked—into one monthly bill chargeable to a pre-authorized debit account of credit card.

All of this points directly to a day when parking service providers will simply distribute availability and charge appropriate market rates driven by time, location, supply, and demand; a much different world from today’s operator-provided, hardware-based cash and credit payment platforms.

System Test
The Winnipeg experiment used Google Maps and street view data compiled by Winnipeg Parking Authority staff to develop precise parking stall locations, along with rate and time zone tables to construct remote billing. As the test was for overall concept, the device delivered was an early prototype package developed by the Skymeter Corporation. The actual prototype device was a bit big, roughly equal to the size of a stapler. It contained three boards, a SIM card, memory chip, and transmitter, and was powered by a long cable that fit into the DC power supply in a vehicle. As the test was a proof of concept only, the WPA recruited 10 volunteers who mounted the devices on their dashboards and provided test credit card accounts.

Test subjects ranged in age from 30 to 80, and parking habits included a mix of on and off street preferences. The test was allowed to run for four months, and participants were asked to verify their parking locations, fees, and timings as noted on their monthly invoices when they arrived via their credit card statements.

As an interesting additional feature, we noted that the devices had a native ability to transmit RFID signatures. This suggested an undeveloped capability around self-identifying each device to control gates and enforcement computers.

In each test case, we found the device tracked vehicle movements well and very precisely throughout the city, even through downtown areas. The accuracy appeared to be within three feet, which was sufficiently accurate to withstand customer scrutiny.

Customer Feedback
Customer feedback was enthusiastic. The 10 member testing team universally loved the device and wanted to continue with the program; their observations were that the device itself should be smaller (the commercial version is much smaller), but they loved the idea of being free of parking meters and control devices. They commented that the billing process worked fine, and that the ability to disregard meters and receive a consolidated monthly bill for only the parking that they actually used was fabulous. Several said that the consolidated report was excellent for managing business expenses.

Toward the end of the test, we received a visit from the regional news team of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The reporter was fascinated with the device and we went out for a drive, using special test software to track the Skymeter all the way along on a portable laptop. The reporter was excited about the possibility of using the device to pay for parking; the resulting news story was very positive and even made the 11 p.m. National Evening News as a lead story on new and useful technology.

Simplicity for the Customer

Parking management by satellite improves access and mobility for people and communities. It improves the driver experience, and can reduce machine and operating costs for service providers. In addition to its parking application, the technology can seamlessly and simultaneously address road and parking congestion and peak travel. Its most powerful attribute is that it handles any kind of parking circumstance with incredible flexibility and customer ease of use, while dramatically reducing the cost of managing parking space in all environments.
Based on our tests in Winnipeg, we are predicting the Skymeter concept will be the technology to watch in the current decade.

David Hill, MA, CAPP, is national practice leader, parking solutions, with the MMM Group. and former CEO of the Winnepeg Parking Authority. He can be reached at hilld@mmm.ca or 403.269.7440.

J.D. Hassan is chief commercial officer with Skymeter Corporation. He can be reached at 416.673.8406.

TPP-2012-02-From the Far Horizon

Predictive Parking

TPP-2012-02-Predictive ParkingBy Robert C. Hampshire and Tayo Fabusuyi

The Pittsburgh Cultural District is home to the arts and entertainment scene supported by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust (PCT), a nonprofit arts organization established in 1984 to lead the cultural and economic development of downtown Pittsburgh, primarily through the use of the arts. Since its inception, the PCT has seen significant increases in attendance and patronage in and around its venues. This development has placed considerable strain on the existing amenities within the district, particularly parking facilities, and the situation has been further compounded by the scale of sports activities on the North Shore and the added demand for parking from fans there.

To address this problem, PCT, with funding from the Benter Foundation, initiated ParkPGH, a smart parking system that uses historical parking and event data in a prediction model to provide real-time information on the availability of parking in the cultural district’s eight parking facilities. The program enhances the existing off-street parking facilities within the district by providing real-time parking information through a host of information delivery methods, including an iPhone application, traditional and mobile websites, text messaging, and an interactive voice response system.

The architecture and software development for ParkPGH were completed by technology and design firm Deeplocal, Inc. The primary goals of the program are to reduce search time and search time variability when finding a parking space in the Cultural District and to reduce anxiety related to parking issues, making it a more desirable destination. Other goals include reducing late arrivals to PCT performances, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and congestion by reducing circling to find a parking spot, and attracting new patrons who were previously deterred by the uncertainty of parking availability.

Technical Approach
We have employed an innovative approach that combines system development and integration with a parking prediction algorithm. The system development and integration module collects real-time parking information from both public and private parking garages. This was made possible through the use of a web API and infrastructure that collects, validates, and stores parking information in real time. The system integration also includes the development of an iPhone text message gateway, and an API that provides third party developers access to the ParkPGH data.

The prediction model uses as inputs historical parking and data on events occurring downtown, and provides estimates of the available parking spaces for each garage. The prediction model was trained on a historical parking data set. This dual-prong technological innovation was deployed through a pilot program that monitors eight parking garages with a total of 5,000 parking spaces, representing approximately 20 percent of the total parking supply in downtown Pittsburgh and more than 90 percent of the total parking supply in the cultural district.

Parking information that is updated every minute is delivered through channels that include websites, the iPhone app, SMS text, voice, and a mobile version of the website that provides the same information as the traditional website, optimized for mobile devices such as BlackBerry and Android phones.

Our development team embraced traditional traffic sign colors to provide information to patrons looking for parking spaces. The green, yellow, and red color coding is complemented with numerical figures that show the number of available parking spots, except in cases where a garage is deemed full or close to full capacity. A snapshot of the website showing destinations within the Cultural District, garages, and the available spaces is provided in Figure

The iPhone app and mobile website feature scrollable views that list each available parking facility and its parking space availability. Clicking on a garage reveals more information, including the facility address, map, and pricing. In addition to parking garage information, popular destinations are displayed so visitors can locate their targeted destination and find the closest available parking.

Figure 2 is a screenshot of the ParkPGH iPhone application. It shows both the real-time and prediction capabilities of ParkPGH. In the pictured scenario, a popular garage, Theater Square, is currently designated as “Near Full.” In addition to this real-time information, a plot of predicted parking demand is provided on the lower half of the screen. The predicted parking demand plot shows the average or baseline parking demand for the garage based on historical data. Additionally, the demand exceeding the average is also provided. In this scenario, the excess demand is predicted based on two events occurring near the Theater Square garage that will influence future parking availability. This predictive capability is a distinguishing feature of ParkPGH.

Key Management Challenges

One of the key challenges we encountered in implementing ParkPGH was a problem created by the unique environment in which the smart parking application was deployed. The parking facilities featured in the pilot program are owned and operated by entities with different management structures. The fragmented ownership and diverse management structure make it extremely difficult to design a standard approach that will be amenable to all the garages. When the project was conceptualized, it was thought that there was a uniform method of determining the number of currently available parking spots in the garages, along with a way of determining when the garage could be identified as being full. However, each parking garage has its own method of determining how and when to identify the garage as full. Variables that factor into that decision include the number of leased spots to hold open, use of valet parking, the threshold level at which the “full” sign goes up, and garages that distinguish between hard and soft full.

This lack of standardization made for significantly increased complexity in the algorithms used in the ParkPGH application. We have addressed this, in part, by developing a novel web portal for garage managers. This platform allows the documentation of lease management strategies and process issues that shape the idiosyncratic features exhibited by some garages. The information is shared with the software development team to allow these garage-specific traits to be taken into consideration when the smart parking application is being fine-tuned. Secondly, we have accommodated the subjectivities emanating from different management structures through the level of granularity of information provided. An example is the decision to suppress the information on the number of parking spaces available when the garage is deemed full or close to maximum capacity. The possible options by which information is relayed to the public were pilot tested to ascertain the ideal level of detail, especially when garages are close to full capacity.

Evaluation and Impact Assessment

An integral part of the product development phase is the evaluation process. The objective there was to establish the value added by the program and provide information that could be used to make modifications to the smart parking app. The evaluation includes a summative and a formative evaluation piece, with the summative module identifying progress made towards ParkPGH program goals and the formative evaluation providing the core of a feedback mechanism that generates information on usability and accuracy of the smart parking tool to program developers.

Findings from the evaluation reveal that one out of every two respondents says the application has reduced the time it takes to find a parking space. The magnitude of the reduction in search time ranges from as little as a minute to more than six minutes, with the majority of individuals reporting a four to six minute reduction in search time.

We have used this information to estimate the program’s impact on the dollar value of reduced gas expenditure, congestion reduction benefits, and the time value of money. The annual impact is estimated at $313,272 and the annual potential impact at planned full-scale deployment is estimated at $1,253,089. A crucial assumption is that the observations used in generating these figures is representative of the population sampled.

This information and the accolades generated by ParkPGH have encouraged the PCT and other key stakeholders to scale up the pilot to cover downtown Pittsburgh. Added functionalities are also being planned that will increase the app’s functionality.

Authors’ Note: We would like to thank Marc Fleming and John Mumper of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust for guidance and Merrill Stabile, Jim Funovits, and Don Levkus from Alco Parking for providing us with the parking data set, events calendars, and many valuable suggestions. The Pittsburgh Parking Authority and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership were also instrumental in the success of ParkPGH. Thanks are also due to our co-authors, Katsunobu Sasanuma and Victoria Hill. Finally, we would like to acknowledge Deeplocal Inc. for building the ParkPGH application. This work was supported by the Benter Foundation and Carnegie Mellon University initiative called Traffic 21.

Robert C. Hampshire is assistant professor of operations, research, and public policy at Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University. He can be reached at hamp@andrew.cmu.edu.

Tayo Fabusuyi is the lead strategist at Numeritics, a Pittsburgh based consulting practice. He can be reached at Tayo.Fabusuyi@numeritics.com or 412.542.5005.

TPP-2012-02-Predictive Parking

App Nation

TPP-2012-02-App NationBy Mike Drow, CAPP, Peter Lange, and Blake Laufer, CAPP

There’s an app for this and an app for that! Companies have Facebook pages so you can like them, and celebrities are Tweeting about any and all topics. And every person and business seems to have their own website. Trying to stay abreast of the electronic and social media posts is difficult, and that’s before your colleagues and superiors ask you about your plans to have your facilities and operations online.

If you are like most people, getting your Facebook page started is a challenge, as is understanding how to apply all of this technology to your parking and transportation operations. This article will give you a short primer on the various technologies that can improve your operations, help market your facilities, and provide useful services to your customers. We will also review the value of data generated from your facility and how data is used by various mobile apps.

Mobile Applications and Websites
Applications have made the smartphone a useful and critical tool in our daily lives. From helping us find a restaurant, reading our emails anywhere, and flinging birds at pigs, to getting our airplane boarding pass, the mobile app has been developed into many useful services. We have seen many apps developed for the parking and transportation industry over the last three years. But which is the best to use?

Before we answer, let’s discuss the different type of mobile phone apps and how each might fit with your operating goals and target customers. Understanding the tradeoffs will help you determine which type of app you should develop or use in your operation.

There are three basic categories of apps: native applications, web applications, and hybrid applications.
Native applications are software packages that make use of all the phone’s features, such as the camera, geolocation, storage card, and other hardware. Because the app uses the features of a specific phone, it must be written and tested to work on that phone. As exhibit A (p. 20) shows, there are several competing platforms, none of which dominate the marketplace. When developing an app, the developer needs to decide which platform(s) he will use to reach the most customers.

While native apps are more expensive to develop, there are benefits to using them. First, they do not need to be connected to the internet to be used; they can work in offline mode when there is no internet connection. However, many parking and transportation apps require an internet connection, depending on functionality and available data.

Because they use the features of smartphones, such as the camera, geolocation, and augmented reality, companies can offer a richer, more immersive experience. And most importantly, native apps can be easily distributed to consumers in the various app marketplaces (App Store for iPhone, Android Marketplace for Android phones, etc), thus reaching a large number of people quickly.

Web apps, on the other hand, work inside the phone’s existing browser. This allows your web app to work across all devices. The same base code can be used to support all devices, including iPhone and Android, without writing new code.

That said, there are drawbacks to web apps. While less expensive to develop, they do not make use of the phone’s other features, such as the camera or geolocation hardware. Most importantly, web apps cannot be deployed to the phone’s marketplace, so you will have to find a way to make the public aware of your app. This also means that they have a built-in revenue model, because consumers may have to pay to download the app. For some folks, such as those with a university, it may be easy to distribute an app to the target population, but for a public operator, that may be more difficult.

Finally, there are hybrid mobile apps, which combine the features of native and web apps.

Using a development framework, companies can develop cross-platform applications that use web technologies (such as HTML, JavaScript, and CSS), while still accessing the phone’s features. A hybrid app is a native app with embedded HTML. Selected portions of the app are written using web technologies. The web portions can be downloaded from the web or packaged within the app. This option allows companies to reap all the benefits of native apps while ensuring longevity associated with well-established web technologies.

The Facebook app is an example of a hybrid app: it is downloaded from an app store and has all the features of a native app, but requires updates from the web to function.

In addition to smartphone apps, we must also consider what the automotive manufacturers are developing. Many cars come with built-in GPS units and the auto manufacturers are looking for parking and transportation apps to enhance the convenience to the customer. It is widely expected that most vehicles will have some way to connect to the internet in the next couple of years, and it is foreseeable that your car will have apps that it can use on the dash units.

Which Is Best?
To cover all bases, it is important to recognize that consumers are not using these various apps in a mutually exclusive manner. They are using both native applications and browser-based apps, so the best strategy is to develop both types. The decision to invest in an app or in a mobile website depends on the organization’s target audience and the functionality of the app. Organizations need to consider time, budget, and resources to develop each solution.

You have decided you want to build an app. What will your app do? There are several categories of app functions most relevant to parking and transportation.

Location Aware

Many apps for the parking and transportation markets fall under the Location Aware category of apps. Knowing where a device is in real time means that information about your current location can be fed right to the device. Such devices let you find parking by matching your current location to available spaces. Another app lets you keep track of where you parked and helps you navigate to your vehicle when you return. Other apps can help you locate services nearby and can deliver a coupon for discounted services or tell you about available parking spaces.

Phone as a Credential
You may have used this function to board an airplane or buy your coffee. The credential can be used as a unique identifier for a variety of purposes. Access control systems rely on a unique identifier, such as a barcode, RFID tag, mag-stripe, proximity card, or other media. The smartphone can be used as a credential in a couple of ways, either through information on the display (code number, barcode) or something embedded into the device, such as an NFC chip (near-field communications circuit). As long as the identifier is unique and readable, it can provide access.

Smartphone as Payment
Mobile commerce, sometimes called m-commerce, is a growing area of technology that doesn’t yet have a lot of standards. The basic concept is that the smartphone device you’re carrying can also be used to make a payment. Most commonly, the device is used as a credential that is linked to a credit card or bank account from which funds are drawn and transferred to the merchant (parking operation). In a few rare cases, the charge shows up on your cellular phone bill. Security can be a concern when payment information is stored on the device or linked from the device, and a username or password will often protect the payment application. Sometimes the payment application is generic and can be used for any purpose, while in other cases the payment is tied to a transaction in parking (such as pay-by-cell).

Other Transportation Apps
The plethora of apps is mind-boggling, and some apps created for other purposes are finding their way into parking. Some examples include an app to find gas. Another shows you how full the charge is on your electric vehicle. One “tattletale” app uses GPS coordinates to anonymously report municipal issues and offenses such as potholes, graffiti, and (yes) even parking issues.

Augmented Reality
One of the earliest augmented reality applications is Shazaam, which provides a decoder to identify a song, artist, and year of release just by “hearing” the song (Picture yourself hearing an old song and wondering “who sang this?” Just whip out your phone and let it listen to the song for a couple seconds. It then finds the relevant data for you). Similarly, there are augmented reality apps to recognize images while augmenting them with text and information about their location, or even real-time translation of signage from one language to another (you don’t even need to snap a photo—the translation is done right on the screen while the image is present or moving around).

As it relates to parking and transportation solutions, imagine taking a picture of your location and seeing available parking options nearby or mass transit options (train schedules bus schedules, etc).

How Can Apps Make Money?

There are a variety of business models that organizations employ when delivering mobile apps. Many firms are for-profit businesses that need to generate income from their apps, while others are content giving their apps away to meet a public need or generating value from the app in other ways. The more common business models employed include those listed above:

Many of us are less concerned about building our own apps and more interested in how our parking and transportation information can be inserted into an existing app. The key for each of us is to understand how the third party handles our data and how they charge your potential customers for using their app. Other considerations:

    1. Does the data fit your operation’s objectives? Your parking operation has a reason for pushing data out to the audience. Make sure the data you’re distributing also meets the needs of your operation and drives business or behavior the way you want it to.
    2. Does the data fit the needs of your audience? Your audience has some information they want and plenty that they don’t. Sometimes they need different information at different times or different locations. Predict, if possible, what they want when they want it. This will serve them best without subjecting them to information overload.
    3. Is it okay for others to make money from your data assets? May depend on your business goals or operational restrictions. Do you own the data in the first place?
    4. Is it legal to deploy data in this manner? There can be restrictions on data! FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) prevents some student data from being deployed by colleges/universities. The Drivers Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) prohibits sharing of license plate owner information. And many states and countries are expanding distracted driver laws to prevent the use of handheld devices such as smartphones while driving.

Without Data, It’s Useless

While we just spent time providing an overview of apps, the key to all apps in the transportation and parking industry is data. You have useful data throughout your operations. Without data, all of the apps we have discussed are useless. It is for this reason that you likely receive many calls from firms asking you to share your data with them or to list your locations in their app. Understanding the value of your data and how you want to serve your customers will help you develop an appropriate data and mobile app strategy and decide whom to partner with for an app.

Defining Value
Dollar value is the value that firms will pay your operations for use of your data. When you sell or license the data, you give up certain rights to the data. Not all operations are concerned about selling or licensing their data to others and some prefer to use their data for their own use.

Intrinsic value is the value of allowing people to find your parking facility more quickly. This includes such benefits as reducing congestion on the roadways and sharing information about relevant conveniences in your facilities (carpool programs, electric car charge stations, etc).

Operational value is the value derived from understanding how efficient and effective your operations are. Does the facility generate more profit by offering an early bird special? Is it worthwhile to operate the garage 24 hours a day or are you better off to close that garage at a certain time and save energy and labor expense?

Once you understand how you value your location’s data, you should think about the type of data you have. There are five different categories of parking data. It’s best to think about this data in terms of levels or tiers. Each level requires a solid foundation of the previous level to be able to generate value. The levels include (from the bottom up):

  1. Foundational/Physical/Static. This level represents the physical properties of the real-world object that is being measured. Generally it’s static information that rarely changes. Examples include number of physical spaces in a garage, location of streets, violation codes on a citation, tax rate, etc.
  2. Hours/Rates/Amenities. This level represents information that can be derived from Level 1. It often includes variable information. Some examples include pricing and time schedules, number of available spaces, location of an offense, number of credentials issued, etc.
  3. Reservations/Pre-pay. Level 3 moves a portion of the parking transaction out of the space or facility and into the hands of the parker. This includes being able to reserve and pay for parking before arrival. Most commonly, this is done through an online e-commerce website or smartphone app.
  4. Real-time Information/Dynamic. This involves monitoring the parking operation 24/7 and pulling out key pieces of information for real-time publication (usually every couple of minutes). Common examples include real-time occupancy in a facility or on-street area, officer whereabouts via GPS, the amount of money in a device, varying pricing based on demand, etc. This data can be used internally and externally (e.g. some parking operations publish current occupancy to their website every 60 seconds).
  5. Direct-to-Parker Communication is the highest level of data value. This involves pushing information to parkers in a way that’s timely enough for them to benefit from it. Such examples can include email messages for reminders and events, a Twitter feed for announcements, and so forth. Parkers communicate with you in myriad ways, so you need to find a way that they enjoy and leverage that, even if it means using multiple different channels and media.

Once you have identified the data you possess and have an understanding of how you will generate value from the data, you need to determine how you will deploy your data. First, you need to define your target customers and the data they will need. Do not try to collect and disseminate all types of data to all customers. It will take time to implement the necessary activities to ensure you are providing good, clean data to your customers via mobile apps.

Next you need to define who you will share the data with. Will you build in your own apps or will you work with third parties and allow them to use and/or disseminate your data? When working with a third party, it is important to understand their business model and how they intend to use your data. Be very thoughtful about this step: once you provide the data, it is hard to gain control of the information again.

Understand how frequently you will need to refresh the data. Location information may only need to be updated annually, pricing information may require two or three updates per year, and space availability requires updates every couple of minutes. Understand the update requirements of the data you are sharing. Finally, evaluate the success of your apps and data sharing programs. If an activity is not generating the results or impacts you expected, discontinue it. If it is successful, continue to promote and grow the data and the app program.

Finally, as you continue your journey with electronic media, apps, and data sharing, think about the procedures and policies you need to establish within your operations. What data are you willing to share with the public? If you provide data to third parties, are there restrictions on the use of the data you want to impose? What rights and control do you want to retain related to data? Will you require firms you work with to work with other entities to help improve the overall transportation systems we use?

Mike Drow, CAPP, is senior vice president, Technology Integration, Standard Parking. He can be reached at mdrow@standardparking.com or 312.274.2090.

Peter Lange is executive director, Transportation Services, Texas A&M University. He can be reached at plange@tamu.ed or 979.845.9700.

Blake Laufer, CAPP, is vice president, Product Development, T2 Systems. He can be reached at blaufer@t2systems.com or 317.833.9030.

TPP-2012-02-App Nation

There are Many Steps to Sustainability

TPP-2012-02-There are Many Steps to SustainabilityBy Mike Drow, CAPP and Rick Decker, CAPP

Many facility owners and operating managers seek to operate in a more sustainable manner. We can use many technological methods to achieve this goal, from installing solar panels and wind turbines to generate electricity, to using improved construction materials. Many of the sustainable technologies currently discussed require a substantial investment and risk. These investments may be larger than most operations can financially absorb. However, the daunting economics and cost/benefit analysis should not cause us to abandon our goal. Many actions exist that we can take today to improve our operations’ sustainability for little or no investment.

Operational Changes
Improving an operation’s sustainability means reducing the amount of energy it consumes or the amount of waste it allows customers to create. It may be as simple as altering where patrons pay or how they exit. Energy is wasted when vehicles queue while waiting to exit a facility. Simple actions to reduce these queues include:

  • Implement pay-on-foot machines to allow patrons to pay for parking before returning to their cars. This can reduce
    in-lane transaction times by 40 seconds or more.
  • Implement a credit card in/credit card out system to allow patrons to enter and exit without a cashier.
  • Implement toll tag and other prepaid parking credentials that speed exiting.
  • Direct patrons to exit the facility on less congested roadways when possible.
  • Install reversible lanes to allow faster entry and exit.
  • Any of these simple changes in a 1,500 space garage may equate to planting 173 trees per year.

Reduce Facility Electricity Usage

The most common electric improvement is a lighting upgrade. However, other actions also reduce electricity consumption. Many revenue and access control devices can be placed into sleep mode when not needed. Facilities with multiple entry and exit lanes can reduce their power usage by matching the number of operating lanes with parking demand. Power reductions for other equipment in your facility may use a similar system. (Be sure to confirm the changes do not affect safety or security.) For facilities with multiple elevators, can some be placed in sleep mode during off hours? Is there decorative lighting (not security related) that can be turned off or dimmed during overnight hours? Do you need the air conditioner running in the office overnight when no one is working? Do employees shut down their computers each night and turn off the office lights?

Maintenance Practices
Simple maintenance practices can significantly improve the sustainability of your facility. These range from maintaining a clean facility to using vendors that comply with environmental regulations, deliver their products using waste-reducing packaging, and employ other best practices.

A fresh coat of a light-colored paint improves light distribution and may allow for fewer fixtures, reducing electrical needs.

The proper reclaiming of water during pressure washing or cleaning operations can reduce the effect of your facility on the environment.

Finally, don’t overlook what’s going in the trash. Empty paint cans, certain cleaning solutions, kitty litter for oil pick-up, used batteries, and brake dust are all considered hazardous materials.

Improving the sustainability of our facilities is something we should all strive to achieve. We should plan and consider the large investments. At the same time, we can initiate many simple, low-cost actions to achieve measurable results today.

IPI’s Sustainability Committee is available to help with your efforts. We have and are seeking ideas to share across the industry. Please share your ideas, large and small, with us and let us know if you have questions or need assistance. We are here to help.

Rick Decker, CAPP, is assistant manager, parking operations, for Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, and co-chair of IPI’s Sustainability Committee. He can be reached at rick.decker@mspmac.org or 612.467.0460.

Mike Drow, CAPP, is senior vice president, technology integration, for Standard Parking, and a member of IPI’s Sustainability Committee.He can be reached at mdrow@standardparking.com or 312.274.2090.

TPP-2012-02-There are Many Steps to Sustainability