Located in California’s Orange County, the city of Irvine has become a vital rail hub for commuters between Los Angeles, about 40 miles to the north, San Diego to the south and the sprawling Inland Empire to the east.
The Irvine Transportation Center, operated by the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA), has become one of the busiest in the nation, serving Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner route, which stretches from San Diego to Seattle. It also serves two commuter routes; the Orange County line, from Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to Oceanside in north San Diego County; and the Inland Empire Orange County line operating between San Bernardino to the northeast and Oceanside to the south.
The station is also expected to serve as a stop on the California high-speed rail project that will link California’s major cities with trains capable of traveling at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour. Construction of the project is expected to begin in 2011.
The station also serves the OCTA’s bus lines that transport rail commuters. Since opening in 1990, the station has increased ridership from 10,000 passengers in its first year to more than 650,000 today.
But what it did not do well for many years was serve the needs of commuters who drove to the station each day. With only 500 paved parking spots on an uncovered lot, commuters were often forced to park in an auxiliary dirt lot that could become a muddy mess during California’s rainy winters. Many passengers complained that they were unable to quickly find a place to park and missed their trains.
Looking to soothe the daily parking headaches, city officials in 2007 approved plans for a 1,500-space, four-level parking garage. Funding for the $27 million project came from the OCTA and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).
Fifteen months later, in October 2008, the new garage opened to rave public reviews. “We’ve been counting the days until this opened,” said one regular commuter. “Now you can park your car in a nice, safe lot,” said another.
The new structure offers three stories of covered parking and another open rooftop level. Each level is equivalent to more than two football fields of space. The project took 53,000 combined construction hours, 47 subcontractors, 70,000 cubic yards of dirt and 15,000 cubic yards of concrete.
At the entry, the structure has an LED sign indicating how many open spaces remain on each level, helping drivers to more quickly find a place to park.
The one thing the new parking structure didn’t have was a security system — something that is important to Irvine officials. The city of Irvine has grown dramatically since its incorporation in 1971. It now has a population of about 212,000 people, yet city officials put a very high priority on safety and security that shows in its crime statistics. Last June, the FBI said Irvine has the lowest violent crime rate among U.S. cities with a population in excess of 100,000 people. It was the fifth consecutive year Irvine has claimed to be America’s safety city.
Determined to keep the parking center as safe as possible, the city hired a security consultant to help draft specifications for a comprehensive security system. Using the consultant’s recommendations, the city issued a request for bid (RFB) package with highly specific drawings, terms and conditions.
The RFB was not open to negotiations and the challenging nature of the specifications led several security companies that attended a pre-bid meeting that included drawings and terms, to pass on the project.
“The specifications were well designed, but the highly technical nature of the project and the no-negotiation nature of the RFB led to some potential bidders choosing not to bid on the project,” says Paul Slaman, ADT’s national accounts manager.