I was recently engaged to design a parking management and technology program for a major U.S. transit system. A quick review of the elements applied to a series of park-and-ride lots along a commuter rail line illustrates the range of tools transportation agencies should consider:
- Wireless sensors in all parking spaces to provide hyper-accurate parking availability data. This data would be used to feed a combination of electronic variable message signs, mobile apps and websites.
- Multiple pay-by space payment devices that will be located on the train station platforms.
- A pay-by-cell option that could be used on the train or in the event there was a line to pay or a pay station was malfunctioning when a train arrived. This option could also be used for parkers to remotely extend their paid times when necessary.
- An RFID tag option to be read by handheld enforcement devices used by parking management staff. This compliments a monthly payment option.
- A parking reservation system for locations with enough space. A slightly higher price was charged for this option, which provided guaranteed spaces.
This combination of technologies eliminated the need for traditional parking gates and ticket machines, minimizing staffing and equipment maintenance requirements and reducing operating costs for the agency.
These types of technology help transit agencies more effectively manage limited parking resources, provide reliable parking availability information, improve parking management data and provide enhanced customer service features commuters value.
Soumya S. Dey, P.E.,
PMP Director of Research and Technology
Transfer/Deputy Associate Director
District Department of Transportation
All transit trips start with a trip to the bus, rail or train station. This trip is sometimes a walk, but in most cases, is made by other modes of transport — car, bike, scooter, motorcycle, shared car, etc. The interface between transit and parking provides an opportunity for both industries to apply state-of-the-practice parking options and services to enhance overall customer experience.
Three primary factors drive customers’ modal choice: travel time, cost and convenience. Travel time has two major components: that in a vehicle and that outside a vehicle. Research has shown a customer’s propensity to use transit decreases disproportionately as out-of-vehicle travel time increases. Out-of-vehicle travel time is primarily spent waiting and transferring. New technologies will enable customers to minimize transfer time.
Some of the elements of the parking interface should be:
- Consider parking for all modes to provide customers with options. With the big push toward sustainability, transit agencies should look at opportunities to enhance travel choices between other locations and transit stations. Though auto parking will be the focus, state-of-the-art facilities should consider bike, scooter, motorcycle and car-share parking as well.
- Ensure parking facilities stay abreast of automotive trends. Parking facilities should be able to adapt to include amenities such as car charging to its parking spots.
- Remember information is king. In this information age, offering customers accurate and timely information is key. Information can be static or dynamic/real-time. Static information: transit agencies should have basic information about parking availability, rates, timing, payment options, etc., available through traditional channels, such as websites. This would enable transit users to make informed decisions about options to get to the transit stop.
- Real-time information: This uses occupancy detection technology such as sensors or cameras and sends information out to customers in real-time using a smartphone application. This enables customers to make an informed decision about specific stations, mode of travel, etc.
- Automated space guidance system: For larger facilities, automated space guidance systems directing customers to open spaces reduces customer frustration from circling different levels of a parking garage to find an open spot.
- Offer multiple payment options integrated fare media: Integrating the transit fare media with parking payment options enhances the customer experience.
- Virtual payment options: Providing payment options such as capability of using credit/debit cards and pay-by-cell at transit parking lots enhances the customer experience.
- Boost safety: Transit agencies need to make sure parking facilities are safe for users and adhere to the latest standards on issues such as lighting.