Airports are full again and airport parking lots are even fuller. Because of COVID, travelers who in the past would have taken buses or other public transportation, or even TNCs, are making their own way to the airport. As a result, the airport car parks are packed.
That might be good news for the bottom line, but it’s not necessarily good news for travelers. It can be extremely difficult to spot an open parking space in a sea of occupied spaces. At some airports, it now takes travelers 20 or 30 minutes to find an available parking space. This would be a problem for any car park, but it can be particularly frustrating for air travellers, who are often rushing to catch a flight.
This is why parking technologies such as advanced access and revenue facilities, parking advice, customer service solutions and pre-booking are so important today. In the post-COVID world, when airport garages are busier than ever, these are essential technologies.
“Technology should be an integral part of every airport parking program,” said Rob McConnell, vice president of WGI Parking Solutions. “When airports can help travelers get in and out of parking lots quickly and easily, they can provide a much more enjoyable and less stressful travel experience.”
A parking assistance system can be an essential tool to help travelers quickly and easily find a parking space near their terminal. Parking guidance systems monitor and analyze parking areas to determine where parking is available in the garage or parking lot and relay this information to strategically located signs at entrances, individual floors, and sometimes even individual aisles. As drivers enter the parking lot, signs tell them how many spots are available on each floor at that time, then as they go up to different parking floors, signs tell them how many spots are available on that floor. A good parking guidance system can reduce the time it takes to find parking by up to 20 minutes, and with the pressures of contemporary travel and airport security, that 20 minutes can mean the difference between catching a flight and the to lack.
“Parking guidance is particularly useful for airport parking lots, which tend to be large and are often close to capacity,” said Chris Scheppmann, managing partner at EnSight Technologies. “When you’re rushing to catch a flight, having technology to guide you to open space can be extremely helpful.”
However, most airports have yet to take the leap. The main reason has usually been cost. An accurate guidance system in a single space can cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars and require extensive infrastructure modifications to install. The associated installation costs and times (which may require closing spaces and resulting in lost revenue during installation) have deterred many airports from adding parking guidance.
Car counting systems are also an option, but in the past they were extremely unreliable and inaccurate. The only thing worse than not providing advice is providing technology that will provide bad advice.
The latest parking guidance technology to be introduced, smart camera technology, bridges the gap between single-space guidance and car counting. Smart camera technology counts moving cars. The technology platform relies on AI to perform object recognition to ensure 99% or better accuracy, a degree of accuracy that was previously only available with single-gap guidance, at a fraction of the cost. The platform accurately monitors the number of vehicles entering and exiting facilities and individual floors and analyzes the data to determine the number of spaces available in the monitored area. It then transmits this data to panels strategically located at driveways and individual floors.
“The cameras are self-learning, so the system is constantly improving and keeping up with the introduction of new vehicle types,” Scheppmann said. “This will be important in the future as autonomous vehicles become mainstream and other new vehicle technologies are introduced.”
Parking pre-booking technology allows travelers to pre-book parking near their terminals, providing certainty that a convenient parking spot will be waiting when the traveler arrives at the airport. The pre-booking provider develops a program that will meet the unique needs of an airport, then that technology is integrated directly into the airport’s parking website. This way, the parking reservation program is presented as an integrated part of the airport experience, and the pre-booking process is seamless.
“We offer Chauntry’s white-label pre-booking platform at Phoenix Sky Harbor and San Diego International Airports,” said Shane Henning, general manager of parking operator Ace Parking. “Allowing travelers to reserve a parking space in advance makes commuting a lot less stressful.”
Here’s how the process works: When travelers plan to fly, they log into the airport’s parking website and click the link to reserve a parking space. The link takes them to the booking page, and they are prompted to select their flight details. When the system recognizes the theft, it recommends the most convenient and appropriate location to park. Travelers then select their preferred location and reserve a spot. They can even book multiple seats for multiple vehicles if they are traveling with a large group.
“A pre-booking platform can also support businesses located within the terminal, such as restaurants and bookstores,” said Theresa Hughes, CEO of Chauntry, Ltd. promotions and other offers, which can be offered via the platform, or directly to customers in text messages sent to their phones. Supporting terminal tenants in this way is good business for airports.
Pre-booking can also be a useful management tool. Usage data provided by pre-booking platforms can help airport parking managers accurately predict parking occupancy levels.
Access and control technology
Bottlenecks at garage entrances and exits can be frustrating for travelers. Access and Control Equipment (PARCS) that controls entry and exit gates and collects parking fees has evolved significantly in recent years. Automating the parking experience makes parking more convenient for travelers and more manageable for airports, and PARCS technology controls the automated parking system.
“Today’s PARCS tools are complex technologies capable of handling most elements of the parking experience,” said Chris McKenty, North America Sales Manager, SKIDATA. “They can be configured to manage integrated suites of parking technologies that provide frictionless parking, allow airports to adjust fares to occupancy levels, offer app-free mobile payments, and even manage electric vehicle charging.”
Modern PARCS systems can accept multiple payment methods, including credit and debit cards. They can also handle contactless payment technologies like Google Pay, Samsung Pay and Apple Pay, and can be networked with other parking technologies like pre-booking platforms to enable contactless payment.
“A PARCS system can also be used to manage parking rewards programs,” McKenty said. ”
“Rewards programs are becoming increasingly popular at airports to build customer loyalty, encouraging travelers to park at the airport rather than competing satellite lots.”
Customer service solutions
A customer service solution can be an important complement to automated airport parking systems. As reliable as modern PARCS equipment is, transactions don’t always go as planned. Whether problems arise due to user error or a problem with the equipment, a customer service representative can resolve the issue and get drivers up and running quickly.
When a customer service solution is in place, it can provide a direct, real-time connection, via a video or audio link, to a trained customer service professional. The customer service representative can help the driver through the payment process and, if necessary, raise the door for the driver if the issue cannot be resolved. Usually the problem is a simple user error that can be easily fixed. But sometimes payment equipment does not work as expected. In either case, the customer service representative can resolve the issue.
“In the post-COVID era, travelers are going to the airport more than ever,” said Brian Wolff, President and CEO of Parker Technology. “This trend puts a lot of pressure on automated parking lots at airports. “A single issue at a gate can result in backups that can delay exit or, in the worst case scenario, cause a flight to be missed due to queuing at parking entrances. A customer service solution can mitigate these risks by enabling customer service professionals to quickly resolve issues and get people moving. »
More important than ever
Airport car parks and parking lots are busier than ever. This is why parking technologies such as advanced access and revenue facilities, parking advice, pre-booking and customer service solutions are so important.
“These parking technologies are essential for travelers to move smoothly when arriving at the airport or departing after a long flight,” said WGI’s Rob McConnell.
Bill Smith is a parking writer and contributing editor to Parking & Mobility magazine. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org