Tag Archives: TPP-2014-01

Beyond Just Parking

TPP-2014-01-Beyond Just ParkingBy Gloria Gallo, CAPP, and Patricia Rumi, CAPP

For many years, the four-square-mile Borough of Fort Lee, N.J., has made clever use of its parking authority. To keep taxes down and offer residents increased services, the municipal government has called upon the department from time to time to assume responsibility of some unusual tasks. As a result, in addition to the role of managing parking in town, the authority has expanded its role to broaden community involvement. Expanding the agency’s duties beyond parking has been an experience in adaptability and resilience that has offered enormous benefits to the town and its residents.

With heightened traffic congestion around the George Washington Bridge into New York City and a recent increase in vehicle traffic through the streets of Fort Lee, the municipal government felt an obligation to the community to come up with a system to help residents get into and out of town during peak hours with the least amount of interruption to already-busy schedules. A few years ago, the borough introduced a shuttle bus program that picks up residents inside town limits and transports them to the nearest ferry landing. There are three key reasons residents like and use the program: the service is free, commuters can leave their vehicles at home, and there are no parking issues or fees at the ferry landing. The shuttle program is very successful and the borough is in the process of implementing a second route to accommodate other areas of town.

In addition to this innovative program, the parking authority entered into an agreement with a nearby town to pick up its residents (not just Fort Lee citizens) along the route as well. Expanding beyond immediate residents encourages more people to join the effort to relieve congestion in the area. This is a win-win situation for all. Because Fort Lee is currently in the midst of developing a large parcel that will include two high-rise condominium buildings, a local theater, museum, retail, promenade, and green space, the parking authority anticipates implementing a third commuter bus route to the ferry landing.

Keeping Traffic Moving
Although managing and providing available parking is the main objective of the parking authority, the department is instrumental in keeping all traffic moving smoothly throughout the town, which helps provide public access to metered street parking and commuter lots. Fort Lee is affected by any and all incidents on the massive George Washington Bridge and its access roads. At times, the borough can become totally gridlocked, which prevents commuters from getting to parking lots and keeps buses from completing scheduled routes on time. This, of course, cannot always be avoided, but providing alternate transportation for residents has proven quite beneficial. Fewer cars on the road means less congestion when there’s a problem in traffic.

The ferry shuttle joined an extensive bus program provided to the senior population when it launched. The senior bus has run for about 30 years and made its debut when very few towns provided such a service to older residents. This program has been extremely successful and exhibited constant growth, and Fort Lee seniors rely on it to get around.

The senior bus offers daily transportation to the local nutrition center and supermarkets, weekly trips to the shopping mall, non-emergency medical transportation service three days a week, and a Saturday schedule to several destinations. The parking authority has a fleet of six buses and is responsible for scheduled routes, drivers, maintenance of vehicles, and administration. Many of the vehicles are handicapped-accessible and used frequently for medical transport. In addition, the borough offers a daily bus shuttle for non-seniors.

Most of Fort Lee’s shuttle vehicles are obtained through grants submitted by the parking authority, along with donations the municipal governing body negotiates with local agencies. At press time, the parking authority expects delivery of two minivans for medical transport and one mini-bus to replace its older vehicles—all paid for with grants. There are also two buses on their way to Fort Lee that were donated by the port authority to accommodate the second ferry shuttle.

Beyond Parking
The Fort Lee parking authority is an integral part of all borough services, including some not traditionally associated with parking. The authority is a member of the local emergency management team, which means its professionals assist when transportation is needed for evacuations during emergencies; they also provide transportation to alternate housing or relief centers. In addition, they may provide personnel and/or equipment to assist the department of public works during emergency situations.

Because authority professionals work with seniors every day, they organize and run an annual senior picnic for about 500 people in the town’s high school parking lot. All parking authority employees pitch in to make this a success every year.

Many years ago, Fort Lee’s governing body requested the parking authority devise a paint program to help with infrastructure upkeep. This program involves hiring local high school students during the summer to paint yellow curbs and handicapped spaces, clean debris, and control weeds in town parking lots. The paint program allows the town’s regular maintenance crew to concentrate on other things while offering workforce experience for young adults.

There’s been another benefit to this program: growing the future town workforce. Many students return as seasonal employees year after year until they graduate, and some stay on until they complete college. It’s not uncommon for the parking authority to then hire these seasonal workers as full-time employees; several have become police officers, public works employees, and building code officials.

Back to Basics
So, does the parking authority regulate parking and write summonses in Fort Lee? Absolutely. While it takes on many other responsibilities as well, the department still manages and operates several parking lots, maintains hundreds of street meters and numerous kiosks, installs and maintains signage, and operates a residential parking program that is effective and vital to the town. Because it is so close to New York City, town parking regulations are strictly enforced to keep vehicles from parking on residential streets without permits. This works well with its shuttles, which allow residents to keep their vehicles off the road during peak hours, softening effects on local traffic.

Through the years, Fort Lee’s parking officials have not only had to be knowledgeable about the parking industry, but also versatile in their responsibilities, personalities, and the cooperation and willingness to be part of all aspects of our community. Most authorities do not operate in such a diverse role, but Fort Lee professionals see the value in being innovative, particularly while navigating the maze of future growth. Attending conferences and workshops has been invaluable in providing awareness of all new trends in the parking industry. Although Fort Lee’s parking authority is small in comparison to many other parking departments, its professionals assume diverse responsbilities, interact with the public in many different ways, and contribute in a big way to the quality of life for its residents.

The continued support of the mayor, council, and board of commissioners has been a crucial component in accomplishing many goals. The relationship between the parking authority, borough officials, department heads, local businesses, and organizations is another necessary ingredient toward reaching maximum achievements.

Gloria Gallo, CAPP, is administrator of the Fort Lee Parking Authority. She can be reached at gloriag@fortleeparking.org or 201.592.3500.

Patricia Rumi, CAPP, is assistant administrator of the Fort Lee Parking Authority. She can be reached at patr@fortleeparking.org or 201.592.3500.

TPP-2014-01-Beyond Just Parking

Doubling Down

TPP-2014-01-Doubling DownBy Eric VanDuyne and John Vincent

We were given the opportunity to investigate deteriorated conditions in a five-level, post-tensioned concrete parking structure located in the midwest U.S. back in 1991. At that time, the structure was 15 years old and exhibited widespread deterioration to concrete surfaces on elevated levels of the garage. This deterioration included concrete delamination, concrete spalls, and exposed and corroded reinforcing bars. Because of this deterioration, traffic surfaces became riddled with potholes and stray pieces of spalled slab concrete. The deterioration was quite apparent to the casual observer, and the facility’s owner and patrons had begun questioning the ability of the structure to support vehicles.

The facility is approximately 270 × 263 feet with five elevated levels and on-grade parking to provide a total floor area of approximately 408,000 square feet. The garage serves 1,100 vehicles at a time and is exposed to harsh environmental conditions that include 24/7 vehicular traffic, heavy snowfall, cyclical freezing and thawing, and exposure to de-icing chemicals.
An investigation and plan for repair were developed, and the garage was repaired in 1992. Thanks to unique repair techniques and a careful strategy, the repairs have lasted to today and valuable lessons were learned in the process.

Engineers first performed a field investigation to determine the overall condition of the parking structure and assess the extent of existing deterioration. Beyond what we could see, they found widespread deterioration that included delamination of concrete surfaces, concrete surface spalls, and exposed and corroded reinforcing steel embedded in the concrete slabs. Embedded steel post-tensioning tendons were exposed through the slab surfaces in some locations. The investigation also revealed that high concentrations of de-icing salts that had been absorbed into the concrete caused corrosion of the structure’s embedded reinforcing steel. Approximately 20 percent of the structure’s deck-top surfaces exhibited deterioration.

Prior to our involvement in 1991, the structure underwent at least one unsuccessful repair program. These repairs consisted of the localized removal of deteriorated concrete followed by the installation of various types of patch materials. Virtually all of the patches exhibited deterioration by the time we began our study, and many had dislodged from the substrate concrete.

Approximately 10 percent of the post-tensioning tendons embedded in the concrete were inspected during the investigation to assess their actual conditions. Inspections were performed by removing concrete in localized regions to expose tendons. Visual inspections and tests to evaluate prestressing in tendons were performed. Results of this work revealed minor corrosion of prestressing tendons and two slab tendons that had lost their prestressing forces. The post-tensioning system was judged to be in relatively good condition overall, but exhibited localized deterioration.

Repair Design
Prior to our involvement, the garage’s owner considered demolishing the structure and building a new one. However, the field investigation, engineering analyses, and laboratory testing suggested that repairs were feasible and that the life of the structure could be extended for at least several more years. At a minimum, the owner desired that the structure be kept functional for a few years so funds could be secured to build a new garage.

Specific repairs were planned to meet his goal and strengthen structurally deficient members, restore deteriorated deck surfaces, reduce future maintenance efforts, and enhance the life of the structure. Additional constraints included the fact that the garage could not be closed during repairs and that only 200 parking spaces could be taken out of service at any time during construction.

Based on these requirements, the team studied several repair approaches. The criteria for judgment of alternatives included effects on the existing post-tensioned structural system, anticipated longevity of repairs, anticipated maintenance requirements to ensure integrity of completed repairs, and total cost (including initial and maintenance costs).

A strategy of installing a continuous bonded concrete overlay to existing decks evolved as a result of past experience and the desire to meet project objectives. The team considered patch repairs in combination with a traffic-bearing waterproofing membrane, but the initial and maintenance costs of this approach exceeded those associated with the overlay scheme. The results of the field work that was performed indicated that the concrete cover atop embedded steel reinforcement was shallow, and that significant amounts of de-icing salts had been absorbed by the concrete. Therefore, deterioration would be expected to continue despite membrane installation.

Further study and engineering analyses resulted in the conclusion that an overlay could be installed on top of the existing elevated concrete decks. The approach included removing deteriorated deck concrete, patch materials, and slab top reinforcing steel; roughening substrate deck concrete; repairing defective slab post-­tensioning tendons; and installing a continuous, bonded, reinforced concrete overlay to deck-top surfaces. This approach met with the owner’s approval.

The final design phase required consideration of several details:
Removal of deteriorated deck concrete would be performed using a machine that erodes the concrete surface with water jets, called hydro demolition. This process has many advantages, including minimal damage to embedded post-tensioning tendons and a concrete surface that is more conducive for bonding with new repair materials. Engineering analyses were performed to assess the effect of the removal of deteriorated concrete from post-tensioned slab surfaces. The results of this work indicated that removal depths had to be restricted. Therefore, hydro demolition would need to be performed with extreme care to avoid deep demolition that could harm the structure.

Shoring and counterweighting slab spans were necessary during the removal of upper portions of slab concrete to minimize concrete cracking after reinstatement of the facility.

High-performance microsilica concrete was chosen as the overlay material because of its relatively high strength, low permeability, and low maintenance requirements. An inspection and testing program, including the use of overlay mockup specimens and bond tests, was developed to assess the expected bond of the overlay to the existing concrete slabs.


Repair work started in March 1992. The first task involved the construction of three overlay mockup specimens to evaluate the bond of the high-performance concrete to a surface subject to the hydro demolition process. The results of this work indicated that hydro demolition could be adequately controlled to avoid excessive removal depths and that good bond between overlay and substrate could be achieved. This information resulted in significant time savings and simplification to the overlay installation procedures.

As production work proceeded, hydro demolition on the concrete slab top surfaces exposed a relatively large number of post-tensioning tendons, which simplified inspection of the tendons. However, damage in the form of deep nicks and corrosion were found in some tendons located adjacent to concrete patches of previously repaired areas. It appeared that the misuse of demolition hammers in the previous repair program(s) resulted in damage to the tendons, which was not remediated at the time. If all previous repaired areas concealed nicked and/or corroded tendons, and all such defects required repair, construction costs were likely to escalate quickly.

To ensure durability, tendons exhibiting extensive corrosion needed to be repaired. A laboratory testing program was developed to determine the significance of the observed nicked conditions. The program included the performance of tensile tests on ­intentionally-damaged tendon specimens to emulate observed conditions in the parking garage. The results of this study provided an assessment of the strength reductions in tendons containing nicks and severed wires. Acceptance criteria for existing conditions (e.g., shapes, sizes, and numbers of nicks) were developed, resulting in significant savings in construction time and costs.

In most instances, tendon replacement was performed by re­threading a new, greased tendon into existing sheathing and splicing to existing tendons. In a few instances, replacement required trenching of the concrete slab to facilitate installation of new post-tensioning tendon systems. During the course of the work, 170 of the 1,050 slab tendons required repair.

Repair Performance
The parking structure is still functional today, 20 years after completion of repairs. The repair decisions that were made and repair construction that was performed have more than doubled the life of the structure. Based on an April 2013 inspection and discussions with the owner, the garage has required minimal maintenance. Two repair programs have been performed since the 1993 repair; they consisted only of isolated concrete patch repairs, routing and sealing of some slab topside cracks, and some joint maintenance. The total area of patch repairs reflects significantly less than 5 percent of the total surface area of the 1993 overlay. The inspection did not identify any evidence of tendon repairs or breakage. Based on performance to date, the garage has many years of service life remaining.

The correct choices in repair details and durability enhancements, including the use of a high-performance microsilica concrete overlay, increased the initial construction cost but provided measurable return on investment by reducing maintenance costs and significantly extending service life. This is an example of how durable and cost-effective concrete repairs can be designed and constructed to significantly increase the service life of an existing parking garage.

Eric VanDuyne is senior engineer with CTLGroup. He can be reached at evanduyne@ctlgroup.com.

John Vincent is principal structural engineer with CTLGroup. He can be reached at jvincent@ctlgroup.com or 847.972.3242.

TPP-2014-01-Doubling Down


TPP-2014-01-SPREADING THE WORDBy David G. Onorato, CAPP

A 2012 decision by the Public Parking Authority of Pittsburgh established the city as the first in the U.S. to commit to the adoption of multi-space, pay-by-license-plate technology to manage a full network of on- and off-street metered marking.

The primary objective of the commitment to modernize couldn’t have been more basic to a core organizational mission: to improve the parking experience of meter customers while increasing the operational efficiency of metered parking management across the board.

The question that led to the authority’s action was how best to achieve those goals, both for the near and longer term, and the selection of a plate-based process had its roots in the organization’s previous experiences with pay-by-space and pay-and-display multi-space systems. The first option created at-the-meter confusion regarding the space being purchased, and the second required a return to parked vehicles to display meter-issued receipts. Both inconveniences would be eliminated by the pay-and-go advantage of pay-by-plate technology. That feature, combined with other state-of-the-art components, led to a seven-year purchase and maintenance contract with supplier Cale America for the approximately 900 machines required to manage most of the authority’s inventory of metered spaces. Importantly, because of a highly competitive request for proposal process, no premium was paid for the substantial technological upgrade acquired. Instead, the provider recognized the value represented by Pittsburgh’s full-scale commitment to a new metering mode.

What’s My Plate Number?
The selection of a pay-by-plate system brought area drivers’ relationships with their license plates into sharp focus. Did they know their plate data by heart or have even some idea of its content? Or would they have to walk to the back of their vehicles—Pennsylvania is a rear-plate-only state—to copy the letter/number combination that would be required to operate the new system? The authority’s leadership team concluded that, excepting vanity tags, the latter circumstance was probably the norm. And to address it, management developed and implemented a low-cost program to smooth the introduction of pay-by-plate meters to the Pittsburgh market. The solution was to produce and distribute a virtually weightless plastic key fob containing the authority’s website address, credit card payment information, and, most pointedly, a blank space for drivers to record their vehicles’ license plate data.

This represented a very low-tech approach to acquainting customers with the most sophisticated metering concept available, and it backed a $10 million authority investment with an informational aid priced at just pennies per unit.

Choosing an effective—and cost-effective—promotional tool was just the start of the educational process. A comprehensive delivery system would also be required, and implementing it would involve the shoe-leather investment of a number of authority employees.

Hitting the Streets
To start, the key fobs were hand-delivered to locations, groups, and individuals who might be helpful in familiarizing their respective patrons, constituents, and clients with the planned move away from the single-space, coin-operated meters that had been in place for decades. The distribution targets, sequenced largely by the installation schedule for the neighborhoods and commercial districts involved, included grocers and other retail businesses; hospitals; doctors; dentists; universities; restaurants and taverns; community centers; and the district offices of elected officials. In all, with fully 80,000 key fobs purchased and circulated, the program succeeded in meeting its two principal objectives: it provided a convenient source for the license plate data that would be essential to using the new meters, and it alerted motorists that a major change in metered parking services was on its way.

The implementation of a provision in the authority’s purchase agreement with Cale also contributed to a positive public response to the arrival of the new system. The contract required the firm to supply teams of “meter greeters” to guide parkers, step-by-step, through using the new machines. In numbers as large 20, depending on the size of the installation site involved, the teams were on hand as each successive meter grouping was placed into service, and they remained at those locations for a full two weeks. Informed, courteous, and patient, the greeters answered questions, interpreted the instructions contained on the meters’ solar-powered touch screens, and distributed key fobs for parkers to share with family members and others. Unquestionably, their role contributed substantially to an introduction and education effort that held start-up problems of a radical, city-wide change in metered parking practices to a minimum. It was quite a performance for a campaign process that began with a small plastic key fob reminder of a series of letters and numbers that Pittsburghers now find too important to forget.

Behind the Scenes
For the city’s parking authority, the new system had and will continue to have an enormous effect on its meter-related functions. Operationally, the machines’ capacity to accept credit/debit card payments—an entirely new service in most locations where they were installed—markedly reduces collection frequency and cash-handling activity. Evidencing that, card usage has risen dramatically, and now accounts for approximately 70 percent of meter-sourced revenue. Enforcement efficiencies have increased as well, and will improve further as officers in the field become more accustomed to the multi-space management of all of their respective coverage areas. The timing and location of their assignments are increasingly influenced by data on parking activity routinely generated by the new technology. And equipping vehicles with plate-reading cameras for monitoring paid-versus-unpaid parking time will add an entirely new dimension to the enforcement process.

The adoption of a new metering concept has had a considerable financial effect as well. The coin-operated models that were replaced had no capacity for credit or debit card use. That limitation deprived customers of convenience and frequently resulted in underpayments for parking time simply due to a shortage of coins on-hand. Conversely, the card option gives parkers the ability to fully pay for an anticipated stay without relying on seat-pocket change. And because customer preference ran so strongly in favor of card-sourced payments, revenue from metered spaces rose to at least equal the amount those spaces were expected to generate from their projected levels of activity.

Cash versus card data is compelling in that regard: when paying by credit or debit card, customers average just more than $3.10 per transaction, while payments in cash averaged $1.10 for each parking stay. The card-related gain, moreover, is in addition to the one realized almost immediately from the authority’s all-in commitment to multi-space metering. Prior to the start of installation of the new units, Pittsburgh’s total complement of metered spaces, on-street and in surface lots, accommodated 8,700 parked vehicles. With installation complete, the capacity for income-producing spaces has increased by approximately 20 percent. For a nearly $40 million enterprise required to be financially self-sufficient, both increases in revenue opportunities are welcome developments. They allowed the authority to continue its progress in incorporating technological advances into its operations and helped increase its annual contribution to the operating budget of the City of Pittsburgh.

More Benefits
As meaningful as their performance has been to date, the effect of the new meters on future authority operations is likely to be even more dramatic. Their pay-by-phone component is an obvious example. When activated system-wide, the feature offers a great deal more than an additional customer convenience; it also represents an opportunity to achieve the long-term management objective of reducing or even eliminating the practice of controlling parking durations in given spaces by the posting of applicable time limits.

In the authority’s view, streets are for short-term parking. It also believes that the outcome can best be realized through pricing policies that drive longer-term meter parkers to off-street or fringe locations. The ability of a community to introduce the concept described as dynamic pricing requires the capacity to vary rates in accordance with the timing, location, and duration of parking stays. And its implementation is now possible in those jurisdictions with our new metering system and soon to be pay-by-phone option across a broad spectrum of their metered network. In cooperation with other government entities, the authority’s intent is to explore every opportunity available to add greater price flexibility to its meter management toolbox. The purchase agreement was reached in the anticipation that the meters now in service would remain in operation into the opening years of the next decade. The system that succeeds them—including the possibility that city streets could largely be meter-free—will depend on advances in technology available at that time. But this much is certain: the authority’s approach to the management of parking volume now under meter control will be as cutting-edge progressive as the system it has in place today.

David G. Onorato, CAPP, is executive director of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority. He can be reached at donorato@pittsburghparking.com or 412.560.2558.


Hot Dog!

TPP-2014-01-Hot Dog!

We knew parking professionals were a talented and hard-working bunch, but who knew they were so good with cameras?

Our thanks to everyone who entered our 2013 photo contest—we loved sifting through so many great photos and had more than a little trouble picking our winners.
We also send thanks to our talented crew of judges, including the design pros at BonoTom Studio, Inc., who make this magazine look so great every month.

Enjoy this year’s winning shots and keep those cameras handy—you have 10 months to take the perfect photo for next year’s contest. It’s never too early to start!

Congratulations to all of our winning photographers.

Winners by Category

Overall Winner
Weiner Mobile
by Dave Fields, parking operations manager, SMG
Dave snapped this photo of the iconic Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile parked outside the Colorado Convention Center last August.

People in Parking
Brothers Hanging Around
by Jeff Pinyot, president, ECO Parking Lights Jeff took this photo of his sons in a garage in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Parking in 3D
by Nick Thompson, parking and transportation administrator, City of Austin.
Photo of a parking sign that took on a three-dimensional character.

Park n Go Sign
by Dareen Thielbar, parking enforcement officer, City of Vancouver, Wash.

Winners by Category

Parkopedia Sign
by Christina Onesirosan Martinez, marketing director, Parkopedia
The world’s most confusing parking sign

Most Offbeat or Unusual
Meter Graveyard
by Larry Cohen, CAPP, executive director, Lancaster Parking Authority
Taken in a meter storage room in Pennsylvania.

Park n Go Sign on Green Wall
by Dareen Thielbar, parking enforcement officer, City of Vancouver, Wash.

TPP-2014-01-Hot Dog!

NEW Technology Will Drive Airport Parking In 2014

TPP-2014-01-NEW Technology Will Drive Airport Parking In 2014By Dan Kupferman, CAPP

Flying can be stressful. It’s really not the flying that creates tension, but getting to the gate on time that stresses us out. Driving to the airport, finding a parking space, getting through security—if you have an early morning flight, you may be tempted to leave the night before!

Airports get it. They can’t do much about traffic jams along the way to the airport and they can’t deviate from Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines regarding security. However, they are doing a lot about the parking experience. Emerging technologies are being introduced to make airport parking faster and easier while also protecting and/or increasing revenues.

Install It, They Will Come

An automated parking guidance system (APGS) is an information network that can provide information on parking availability and directional guidance to motorists at every stage of their parking experience. Magnetic loops, ultrasonic sensors, and/or digital imaging technologies are used to monitor space availability and display the information on dynamic signs. There are three different levels of service:

Facility counts. As a driver nears the airport, dynamic signage displays space availability at each of its parking facilities. If a garage is full, the driver won’t waste time driving to it. Parking rates or other messages may also be displayed on the sign.

Level counts.
As a driver pulls up to the garage, he will see a sign displaying the number of available spaces on each level of the garage. As he approaches each level, he will see the number of spaces available on that level and the next level. “Hmm,” the driver thinks, “only 10 spaces here, but 50 on the next level. I’m going up one more.”

Space counts.
Red and green lights are displayed above every space. When a car pulls into a space, the light above it turns red. Open spaces are marked with green lights. As he approaches a row of spaces, the driver can quickly see if there are any available. If there are no green lights, he will bypass that row. Dynamic signs with arrows will guide drivers at key decision points and let them know how many spaces are available. Other colors are available, such as blue for handicapped or amber for reserved.

Thanks to automated parking guidance systems, we may never again miss a flight because we’re circling around a garage looking for an open space. If you could choose between two airports, and one had APGS and the other didn’t, which would you pick?


Parking reservation systems allow motorists to reserve and pay for parking via the internet or smartphone app. Having a guaranteed space makes it even easier to determine how much time to allocate for parking.

Airport reservation systems can capture a parking reservation when the motorist books his flight, which is most commonly done online or through a travel agent. Reservation systems include receiving payment in advance, ensuring the traveler will not park elsewhere. They also capture contact and travel information about the traveler for marketing purposes. Finally, they can incorporate frequent parker programs and other discounts to build customer loyalty.

Fully-automated reservation systems use barcodes or quick response (QR) codes that allow the traveler to scan his reservation at a reader at the entrance. License plates and credit cards may also be used to match the driver with a reservation.

Off-airport operators have used reservation systems for years, attracting potential on-airport parkers before they get to the airport. Many people research parking by searching their airport and the word “parking.” When they do, off-airport parking usually appears before on-airport parking. This is not random, alphabetical, or geographical. A good reservation system manipulates key search words and search engine optimization so that certain facilities appear at or near the top of the search page.

Airports in Europe not only offer air and parking reservations online, but also reservations for hotel rooms, car bookings, and marketing opportunities for other airport-related services such as restaurants and retail outlets. Why let Orbitz have all the fun (and the business)?

Lost Tickets, Not Revenue

Airport operators obviously host a lot of long-term parkers, which equates to larger parking fees. If the parker is gone for a number of days (or weeks), there is a greater chance he’ll lose his parking ticket, which has traditionally been the only documentation of when his car entered the garage (to calculate the parking fee). Unfortunately, the honor system doesn’t work well here. They say time flies when you’re having fun. I suppose that’s why people tend to think they were parked for a shorter period of time.

Operators traditionally take overnight inventories to assist with lost tickets. Staff manually record the license plate of each vehicle to track the number of days it is parked. When a lost ticket is reported, the cashier can refer to the inventory. Some enter the data into handheld devices to record the data; some of these devices can digitally scan license plates. This works moderately well, but it’s time consuming and labor intensive. It may cost more in payroll than it saves in lost tickets.

Many airport operators are now using license plate recognition (LPR) systems to photograph and store data from vehicle license plates. These systems are extremely cost effective, and safeguard revenues against lost and even swapped tickets.
There are two types of LPR systems used in garage and surface lot settings: stationary LPR and mobile LPR. Both interface with the facilities parking access and revenue control system (PARCS) for audit control.

Stationary LPR uses stationary cameras at the entrance and exit points of a facility. The cameras capture the license plate images of cars as they enter the facility. When the spitter ticket is surrendered at the exit, the vehicle’s license plate is compared with the image that was recorded at the entrance. If a different ticket is used at the exit, the vehicle’s license plate won’t match the entering vehicle’s license plate, which creates an alarm condition. The software can then be directed to search for the matching license plate image to determine the corresponding entry ticket data (time and date). This provides for accurate fee calculations in the event of lost tickets and eliminates the possibility of exchanging tickets in an attempt to reduce the parking fee.

Mobile LPR uses vehicle-mounted cameras to record license plate images of all parked cars as the vehicle drives through the facility. The data is synchronized with the previous day’s data to track the duration of stay for each vehicle. If the facility is separated into zones and the vehicle drives the same route each night, the system can locate vehicles by querying their license plates.

Another option for minimizing lost tickets is getting rid of them entirely. Credit card in/credit card out has a parker swipe a credit card instead of taking a paper ticket. The software timestamps the transaction, ties it to the credit card, and stores it until the parker returns and swipes the credit card at the exit. The software then retrieves the entrance data, calculates the fee and charges the credit card. No cashier is needed, so this can be an automated exit lane. Make it a dedicated express lane to give frequent fliers the added bonus of bypassing the pay-on-foot station and any potential lines at the cashiered exits.

An App for That

We already know that smartphones can be used to pay for on-street parking. Pay-by-cell phone service providers set up a payment program for the airport in exchange for user convenience fees (typically 35 to 50 cents per transaction). Motorists register with the service provider and place a credit card on file for payment, enabling them to use their cell phones to pay for parking.

Cell phones can be enabled to enter and exit gated facilities, too. Once the account is set up, the motorist is able to use a QR or bar code. When waved in front of a reader at the entrance to the facility, it sends a wireless signal to raise the gate. This is repeated at the exit, where the fees are calculated and charged to the credit card on file.

Some of these systems don’t even require a reader; the smartphone can send a signal directly to the gate.

Near Field Communications

Near field communications (NFC) technology allows credit card transactions to be conducted without inserting or sliding a credit card into a reader. Credit cards are embedded with NFC processor chips that eliminate the need to read a magnetic stripe on the credit card. The user either taps the reader or waves the card close to it to conduct a transaction. The card needs to come within four centimeters of the card reader. The close proximity protects accidental charges from occurring if other cardholders are standing nearby. Smartphones can also be embedded with processors to serve in the same capacity.

NFC technologies offer a higher level of protection against fraud than magnetic stripe transactions, as each chip has unique characteristics. In addition, the reader is less susceptible to tampering than magnetic stripe readers. Visa thinks this is important, so they’re waiving some PCI requirements for merchants with 75 percent NFC or chip-enabled transactions.

This is the same technology that Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMV) are slowly but surely bringing to the U.S., which is one of the few countries where EMV credit card processing has not yet been deployed (see the September 2013 issue of The Parking Professional). EMV intends to shift counterfeit credit card and fraud liability from the card issuers to the card processors if chip-enabled technology is not deployed.

When they do, U.S. airports will likely be the early adapters.

Aviation, by its very nature, has always been about technological innovation, starting with the Wright brothers. In 1909, Wilbur Wright (Orville’s kid brother) established the world’s first airport (College Park Airport in Maryland, which is still operating today). That same year, Henry Ford began mass producing the Model T, the first affordable car. I doubt that either of them was concerned about parking back then, but they sure would be today! Thanks to like-minded innovators, 2014 promises to be a big year for airport parking.

Dan Kupferman, CAPP, is director of car park management systems at Walker Parking Consultants. He can be reached at dan.kupferman@walkerparking.com.

TPP-2014-01-NEW Technology Will Drive Airport Parking In 2014

Blowing in the Wind

TPP-2014-01-Blowing in the WindBy Jacinta Messer

Environmental artist Ned Kahn is known for his large-scale art depicting natural phenomena that include wind, water, and fire. His art is sustainable and fluid, often incorporating materials and movement that capture the elements in multiple dimensions; it’s so profound that even Smithsonian magazine has featured his work.

Kahn constructed one of the largest pieces of art in Australia in 2012. The piece brings together thousands of metal squares in a hinged design that illustrates wind, both in shading and in the motion of the piece, which changes as the breeze blows around and through it. One might expect to find this massive piece on a museum or government building, but it’s in a much more prominent place: covering one entire side of a new garage at the Brisbane Airport, where it’s visible to travellers, commuters, and art enthusiasts every day.

A parking garage may seem like an odd place to put a 54,000-square-foot piece of art, but to the many millions of passengers at Brisbane Airport, the breathtaking Turbulent Line sculpture that adorns the airport’s brand new multi-story car park is the perfect combination of art and aviation.

The Piece
Valued at several million dollars, the Turbulent Line is made up of more than 117,000 small aluminium panels, each of which is individually suspended from the side of Brisbane Airport’s new Domestic Terminal Car Park. Brisbane’s ever-changing wind patterns create a fluid rippling effect that sweeps across the face of the car park (see a video at nedkahn.com). In a nod to the city’s signature water feature and to create a site-specific reference, the dark gray line running through the middle of the art represents the Brisbane River.

The piece is beautiful and has received rave reviews from critics and fans, but it also provides a number of other functions that are pivotal to the comfort of those within the structure. Inside the car park, sunlight cascades through the external panelling system, whose design offers both light and shade inside. The piece is open, offering natural ventilation to the interior of the building. In addition to this, the roof of the car park catches rainwater, which is reused for irrigation throughout the 2,700 hectare (6,672 acres) site Brisbane Airport occupies.

Kahn’s impressive array of works generally involves complex natural systems and making invisible natural elements visible. He alternates between recreating environmental conditions in controlled settings and letting nature animate his works. Kahn’s pieces include the Cloud Rings that explores the movement of fog, a Sonic Pool that plays off vibrations below the body of water to create intricate wave patterns, a 20-foot tall tornado of swirling fire called the Fire Vortex, and now the parking garage façade at Brisbane Airport.

The idea for Turbulent Line was born when Kahn spotted the reflection of a ship’s mast in the Brisbane River. He was taking photographs in the inner-city suburb of New Farm when he spotted the reflection of the mast in the river and became fascinated by the way the straight line of the mast appeared warped by the water beneath it.

Once the idea for the project was born, the driving forces behind it were Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) and Urban Art Projects (UAP). Both companies sensed a cultural shift throughout Brisbane. Innovative artworks were scattered throughout the central business district as part of the Brisbane City Council’s New World City program. BAC, already a strong advocate for the arts and a partner to many of Brisbane’s flagship cultural institutions and a firm supporter of transforming the city into a cultural destination, had the perfect location for the massive artwork in the airport garage. The fit seemed natural and would ensure that visitors experience a unique first or final impression of Brisbane.

The Garage
The nine-level parking complex that’s home to the Turbulent Line is the largest single-structure car park in the southern hemisphere. Aside from gorgeous art, customers enjoy state-of-the-art wayfinding technology along with innovative safety and security measures. The car park has more than 5,200 bays catering to both short- and long-term parking customers and is one of two car parks at the Domestic Terminal, bringing the total number of available spaces to 9,000. The added capacity means there is room for additional parking products including valet and premium areas, online booking, guaranteed spaces, and even a car wash facility.

Making it Happen
As expected, a project of this scale presents number of design challenges, particularly given the feasibility and suitability of the location. The sheer size and the close proximity to the terminals and millions of passengers meant ventilation, sound, glare and reflectivity, durability, and lighting all had to be considered—unusual challenges for art, to be sure.

The car park itself was still a construction site during the artwork installation process, which created some additional challenges, including access constraints, for the team charged with hanging the massive piece. It also meant the materials had to be stored off-site and transported in pieces via trailer to the car park deck, where it was all put together.

Once the materials were in place, the construction process involved five trolleys (compact units on wheels). The 369 frames that made up the Turbulent Line were constructed on the trolleys and then a large machine we called “The Ned” picked up each frame and placed it on the side of the garage. The construction team was expected to complete five frames per day; by the end of the process they were turning out 20 frames each day.

The process wasn’t easy, but has been more than worth it. The airport’s large-scale artwork creates a lasting impression on the more than 16 million passengers who use Brisbane Airport’s Domestic Terminal each year and is on the way to becoming a memorable icon for the city of Brisbane. Needless to say, we are very proud of our Turbulent Line!

Jacinta Messer is corporate relations officer with the Brisbane Airport Corporation. She can be reached at jacinta.messer@bne.com.au.

TPP-2014-01-Blowing in the Wind

Free Wheeling

TPP-2014-01-Free WheelingBy Bill Smith, APR

Airports are always striving to find new ways to make the traveling experience more convenient and enjoyable. Competition for travelers can be fierce, and terminals need to offer the amenities and services that travelers are looking for.

Entrepreneurs are helping many airports in their quest for new offerings. Two entrepreneurial trends in particular stand out: airport-based gourmet food trucks and on-demand ride services. These services, which are very popular among travelers and airport employees (not to mention employees of local businesses), are popping up at airports throughout the world. And because both revolve around motor vehicles, they are closely tied to parking. While they can be a boon to airports in their quest to compete, they can also create unique challenges for airport parking professionals.

Food for Thought
Food trucks have been around for what feels like forever. Many of us remember the silver catering trucks that were (and still are) ubiquitous at construction sites. In recent years, the concept has invaded cities across the U.S., with food trucks offering all sorts of gourmet offerings from ethnic delicacies to old-fashioned hot dogs and hamburgers (see the May 2013 issue of The Parking Professional).

The food truck movement has even made its way to airports, with trucks setting up regularly outside terminals to offer a host of tasty options, from Asian to Mexican to barbeque, to travelers, airport employees, and sometimes even employees of area businesses who make the trek to the airport for a quick meal.

Terminal-side food trucks can be a very popular amenity, but can present some complicated challenges to airport and parking professionals, especially in a post-September 11 world.

According to John Reeb, acting associate deputy director of revenue development and management at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), location is a primary concern when rolling restaurants pull up. After all, security is a paramount consideration and you can’t have vehicles parked just anyplace. Reeb says SFO executives carefully selected a location on a roadway close to Terminal One that provided easy access to travelers and employees while also offering easily-managed oversight.

“We had to approach this very strategically because vehicles aren’t typically allowed to park near terminals for long periods of time,” says Reeb. “We were able to find a location that both offered convenience for diners and was secure.”

“We were also fortunate to be able to work with Off The Grid, a well-known and successful vendor with a lot of experience managing gourmet food trucks,” he continues. “The company is very well known throughout the Bay area, and is able to handle the administrative issues, including making sure that each truck is well established and well known.”

The San Francisco program is still in its infancy, having only been up and running for a few months. So far, the food trucks are only permitted to operate on Thursdays from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. because that is one of the lightest periods for traffic around the terminal.

“The program has been a huge success,” says Reeb. “Each week we have three trucks offering different types of food. Menus are posted online each week so people know what types of food will be available on Thursday.”

Rick Decker, CAPP, assistant manager for parking operations for Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, agrees that location is one of the primary challenges presented by food trucks.

“We have been working on regulations for awhile,” says Decker. “We are very concerned about creating traffic problems.”

According to Decker, the airport’s taxi holding lot and access ramp couldn’t meet ordinance requirements, so the airport offered to set up space for food trucks in an adjacent parking garage. In return, the airport asked caterers to reimburse the airport for lost revenue from the parking spaces they were occupying. Airport managers also established some basic requirements, including strict hours of operations and for caterers to pick up all trash created by the trucks and their customers. So far, the catering companies that have expressed interest haven’t been able to create business models they feel will work within the boundaries set by the airport. “For us, it’s a case of wait and see,” says Decker.

Another consideration expressed by both Reeb and Decker is concern among legacy food providers inside the airport that they may lose business to gourmet food trucks.

“We need to be aware of our tenants’ concerns,” says Reeb, “and we’ve asked them to keep us informed about how the food trucks are affecting them, if at all.”

While food trucks are proving to be popular amenities, they do introduce several challenges that need to be addressed. Foremost among these challenges are safety and security. Airport administrators must carefully select locations that provide safe and convenient access without raising security concerns for adjacent terminals. Also, it’s essential to balance the interests of existing food providers with those of the caterers managing the food trucks. Finally, airport administrators should select reputable operators who have a proven track record when it comes to handling the administrative, personnel, and culinary requirements of operating food trucks.

Take A Ride
Another trend that has taken hold in cities across the globe and is starting to be felt at many airports is ride sharing, which connects riders with drivers via the internet. Drivers serve as contractors for web-based services such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar.

Passengers connect with drivers through apps on their smartphones. They can request a certain type of vehicle or even a specific driver to pick them up. All of the cars are fitted with GPS transponders so customers can follow a car’s progress as it moves toward their location. Passengers and drivers rate each other on the site, so passengers can make informed decisions about their drivers, and drivers can choose whether they want to pick up an individual customer. Rides are paid for either as fees or tips, depending on the company, and payment is shared between the driver and the company.

Cities across the U.S. have actively sought to restrict the operations of these services, citing safety and regulatory concerns (though providers contend that the cities are trying to protect their local taxi and limousine industries). In spite of local government opposition, the services are meeting increasing success. For instance Uber, which offers probably the best-known ride sharing service, operates across the world, including in some of the largest cities in the U.S.

The success of the ride sharing model led the state of California to enact regulations that provide industry oversight. The California Public Utilities Commission recently issued a series of regulations mandating liability insurance for ride sharing providers, setting requirements for driver background checks, and dictating what types of vehicles can be used. These regulations provided validation for the industry and will likely foster its continued growth and expansion.

Ride sharing companies have already begun operating at airports across the U.S., and will likely become more prominent as airports move to regulate their activities. The key for airport administrators is to implement requirements that promote safety while providing a level playing field for ride sharing and traditional livery companies.

“These services are very popular,” says Stephanie Box, a consultant with LeighFisher, which specializes in airport management consulting. “They are typically less expensive than cabs and limousines, they are very convenient, and the two-way rating service promotes high levels of customer service.”

According to Box, in spite of the obvious advantages, ride sharing also creates challenges for airports.

“It’s important for airports to maintain existing services and provide opportunities for everyone,” says Box. “Plus, airport administrators need to ensure that the transportation they are providing is safe and reliable. Airports need to have regulations in place to assure that drivers are subjected to background checks and that vehicles are properly inspected.

“It’s great that California has set an example,” continues Box. “Now we’ll see if other states follow suit.”

SFO has first-hand experience with the challenges of establishing ride sharing services.

“Ride sharing companies came to the forefront earlier this year,” says Doug Yakel, public information officer for the airport. “The airport took initial steps of sending cease-and-desist letters to several organizations in April 2013.”

“Our concerns have been based around safety and fairness,” continues Yakel. “While we have been open to providing the forms of transportation our customers want, we must also ensure that all such forms meet our standards of safety.”

According to Yakel, the airport’s first response to the appearance of ride sharing cars on its property was to enforce existing rules and regulations. The airport made contact with various companies to outline what would be required for them to operate legally at SFO. Ride sharing providers were required to define themselves under an existing regulated category—such as a taxi or limousine—to obtain a permit before undergoing the airport’s own permit process. The airport also legally documented the notifications through cease-and-desist letters and followed up with citations when violations occurred.

“Since then, the California Public Utilities Commission has stepped forward to regulate this new form of ground transportation,” says Yakel. “This addresses our safety and fairness concerns, and paves the way for companies to get permitted to operate legally at SFO.”

Box notes that ride sharing is here to stay, and airports need to keep informed about what’s going on with these services. She offers several recommendations for airports that are working with ride sharing companies or considering the possibilities. First, she says, airport administrators should stay proactive when it comes to regulating these companies. Airports should have plans in place to make these operations work, and have a strategy for establishing fees for those operations.

Next, airport management should make sure that their ride sharing programs are managed in a way that’s consistent with how other transportation vendors are being treated. It is important not to undermine the operations of taxis and other delivery services. She also points out that it can be difficult to recognize drivers offering ride sharing because they are in private unmarked vehicles. Airports should have procedures in place to help with that identification.

Finally, there should be a strategic plan for where drivers are permitted to pick up and drop off riders. The plan should be designed to minimize congestion on airport roadways and avoid any potential security concerns.

The Benefits of Change
Entrepreneurial initiatives such as food trucks and on-demand ride services can provide important benefits to airports, most notably by promoting better customer service and generating revenue. However, they also bring with them a host of regulatory and administrative challenges. Airports that take a strategic approach and follow the leads of other airports that have already successfully integrated these services are much more likely to successfully navigate these challenges.

Bill Smith, APR, is principal of Smith Phillips Strategic Communications and contributing editor to The Parking Professional. He can be reached at bsmith@smith-phillips.com or 603.491.4280.

TPP-2014-01-Free Wheeling

Resolve To Market More Effectively

TPP-2014-01-Resolve To Market More EffectivelyBy Bill Smith, APR

It’s a new year, which means it’s time for resolutions. Have you thought about a resolution for your business? If not, I have one for you: commit to marketing your parking organization more effectively.

Many parking organizations struggle with marketing. Some view it as a luxury they can’t afford. Others have only a vague understanding of how to market and assume that basic outreach and word of mouth are sufficient. Still others mistakenly think their old-school strategies are still working and that their marketing programs are already successful. But are they?

It’s a problem that extends throughout the parking industry, and the implications can be far-reaching. Municipalities that don’t communicate with key constituencies about their parking programs, telling them why policies and procedures have been implemented and how the community will benefit, often undermine those very programs. Technology and other parking product providers that fail to demonstrate the benefits of their products and services and differentiate themselves from the competition lose out to that competition. Consultants who are unable to position themselves in the marketplace hinder their ability to generate new business and attract strategic partners. Your marketing program is your means for communicating with key audiences, and it’s essential to the success of any organization.

Fixing It
Ineffective (or non-existent) marketing is one of the most common maladies facing parking organizations and the companies that serve the parking industry. The good news is it’s a challenge that can be overcome.

Here are some basic best practices for improving your organization’s marketing:

Commit to marketing. This seems obvious, but every organization should have a marketing plan in place. Unfortunately, many don’t. The first step, then, is to make marketing an organizational priority.

Effective marketing is always strategic. If you’ve read this column before, you know this is a constant theme for me. It doesn’t matter whether you are communicating to clients and prospective clients, strategic partners, parkers and downtown business owners, or employees, every element of an organization’s communications program should have a strategic purpose. Effective communication doesn’t happen in a vacuum—it is designed specifically to help an organization achieve its long- and short-term strategic goals. Those goals must be front and center when creating a marketing program.

Marketing should be led by organizational leaders. Too many organizations entrust their marketing to junior staff. These organizations have support staff or entry-level marketers put together proposals or create e-blasts and call that a marketing program. Marketing needs to be an integral part of an organization’s operations, and an organization’s marketing leader should be part of the leadership team. Your marketing professionals—whether in-house staff or on-call consultants—can bring a unique skill set and knowledge base to the table. They are familiar with industry and market trends, they know how to make initiatives more marketable, and—most importantly—they understand how your strategic initiatives will affect and be affected by your corporate brand. The fresh perspective your marketing team can bring can help move your organization’s planning process in new, productive directions.

One of the industry’s mantras is that parking is too often treated as an afterthought, and it’s time to get a seat at the table. That’s how you should think about marketing in your organization—it’s time to pull out a chair and invite those professionals to take a seat.

Bill Smith, APR is principal of Smith Phillips Strategic Communications and contributing editor to The Parking Professional. He can be reached at bsmith@smith-phillips.com or 603.491.4280.

TPP-2014-01-Resolve To Market More Effectively

Greening Before Design

TPP-2014-01-Greening Before DesignBy Brett Wood, CAPP

Parking’s green movement has largely focused on the facility: How can we squeeze out the most energy efficiency through lighting, operations, and design? I have seen numerous presentations and publications documenting power savings, cost savings, and innovations in interior and exterior design that highlight and promote Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, Green Parking Council (GPC), certification, and overall improvements to the parking environment and experience.

As a recent member of IPI’s Awards of Excellence committee, I have also seen firsthand some of the most innovative approaches to sustainability in parking. But the question I always ask myself is, “Are we truly starting from the origin when it comes to sustainability in our parking decisions?”

The true intent of sustainability in the transportation and parking realm is a little nebulous. In researching for this column, I found the following definition from the University of Plymouth Centre for Sustainable Transport:

A sustainable transportation system is one that:

  • Allows the basic access needs of individuals and societies to be met safely and in a manner consistent with human and ecosystem health, and with equity within and between generations.
  • Is affordable, operates efficiently, offers choice of transport mode, and supports a vibrant economy.
  • Limits emissions and waste within the planet’s ability to absorb them, minimizes consumption of non-renewable resources to the sustainable yield level, reuses and recycles its components, and minimizes the use of land and the production of noise.

While the first two components of the definition certainly apply to the work being done to promote sustainability in parking today, the last one hones in on a topic that could provide greater depth in the greening movement. Green design certainly minimizes consumption of renewable goods, but the minimization of vehicle miles traveled or more specifically, vehicles, might be the most appropriate method for limiting emissions and waste. That’s where the concepts of right-sized parking come in to play.

The concepts of right-sized parking include localizing parking requirements to meet actual demand characteristics. For so long, municipal planners and decision makers have leaned on antiquated parking planning variables, many of which are holdovers from suburban development standards, that lead to an unnecessary overbuilding of parking spaces in our downtowns. Research in progressive communities has shown that this overbuilding of parking supply can lead to increased vehicle ownership, more vehicle miles traveled, higher traffic congestion, and increased housing costs. Consider it the “Field of Dreams” theory—if you build it, they will drive.

By over-providing parking, we incentivize our residents to drive and may discourage effective transit services and good urban design policies. Parking demand management decisions can have tremendous effects on the ability of our downtowns to progress, including:

  • Encouraging alternative transportation measures.
  • Promoting more park-once design.
  • Reducing vehicle miles traveled (and associated congestion and pollution).
  • Promoting transit-oriented design.
  • Improving density and walkability.
  • Reducing housing and development costs.

The centerpiece of a good right-sized parking program is locally-cultivated data that relates actual parking behaviors and uses to planning ordinances and zoning code. This is typically realized in the form of reduced (or removed) parking minimums and implementing parking maximums. Cities need to educate developers and residents about the benefits of the program. And the program must be coupled with an effective shared parking program, allowing employees, residents, and visitors access to centralized shared parking facilities that serve a number of uses. Finally, parking pricing and management strategies should follow suit, promoting an environment that de-incentivizes an overabundance of vehicular travel through appropriately balanced rates and demand allocation.

It’s time we as parking professionals embraced the notion that we don’t have to park every car. In fact, we want some of them to go away, leading to a more sustainable transportation system overall.

Brett Wood, CAPP, is a parking planner with Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc., and a member of IPI’s Sustainability Committee. He can be reached at brett.wood@kimley-horn.com or 602.906.1144.

TPP-2014-01-Greening Before Design

Customer Service Enhancement from an Unusual Source

TPP-2014-01-Customer Service Enhancement from an Unusual SourceBy Mark N. Santos, PE

During the closing session of the Florida Parking Association’s (FPA) 34th Annual Conference & Tradeshow, FPA featured Liliana Rambo, CAPP, IPI chair and director of parking services, Houston Airport System. She provided an exciting and informative talk on Parking Matters®. A particularly memorable point for me was her discussion on communicating the value of parking expertise.

Our industry has made considerable progress connecting with property owners about the value of parking expertise; many requests for proposals encourage or require that a parking consultant is included in responding teams. But there is equal value in connecting with our customers. The customers of our parking facilities need not be aware of the level of thought, analysis, and collaboration that result in the end product for their use. Perhaps impressive aesthetics and user-friendly functional layouts are only discussed among parking consultants and industry professionals. But what aspects of customer service are truly important to facility customers? What thoughts run through their minds as they circulate through our parking facilities? In what ways can we directly improve users’ perceptions?

One possibility is wayfinding signage. We typically do not struggle to find a shopping mall entrance or the bread aisle in a grocery store. As consumers, we have expectations for proper signage on streets that indicates the shopping mall entry point and subsequently the direction to proceed to find the department store. We also expect to walk the main aisles of a grocery store and see the list of products on each secondary aisle. Imagine your sense of confusion or frustration if these signs did not properly convey the information you were seeking, or did not exist at all.

Customers navigating a parking facility should expect the same level of consistency in wayfinding that they find elsewhere. We often say parking is a customer’s first impression of a destination, and wayfinding signage is essential to making a positive impression on our customers.

We all understand the importance of the essential information for parking garage identification and entrance/exit lanes, but is that enough for transient and daily users? Do your customers have enough information to remember which entrance they used? Do customers exit at the same location they entered, or even on the same street? Do the streets around the parking facility contain one- or two-way traffic?

Parking wayfinding signage typically focuses on the basic information for a concise message, but can be improved upon to provide some additional information to aid customers. Some examples for potential improvements to everyday signage to benefit our customers include:

  • Offering the facility’s name on the first sign that helps them find your structure or lot (Parking at Main St. Garage).
  • Including the street name in entrance signs (Central St. Entrance).
  • Including both the street name and traffic direction on signs identifying exits (University Ave./Southbound).
  • Including identification number, direction location, and destination points on signs identifying stairs or elevators (Stair No. 1/NE/City Hall or Student Union Building).
  • Posting a site map that locates the parking facility and stair/elevator with respect to surrounding buildings or landmarks.
  • Using pictograms to minimize text while providing specific information that’s not only in one language—everyone can understand clear graphics.

The ultimate goal of our daily tasks as parking professionals is outstanding customer service. We must view our facilities through the eyes of our customers during the entire design process. Wayfinding signage containing enhanced information is a simple but essential part of safely navigating a parking facility that can easily be underestimated.

Mark N. Santos, PE, is a senior practice builder with Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. and co-chair of IPI’s Consultants Committee. He can be reached at mark.santos@kimley-horn.com or 305.535.7705.

TPP-2014-01-Customer Service Enhancement from an Unusual Source