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Intelligent parking guidance relieves congestion, reduces costs

First publishedin ITS International
2009 September October
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Intelligent parking guidance system, O R Tambo International Airport, South AfricaBlank
O R Tambo International Airport, near the city of Johannesburg, is the largest airport in Africa. It serves as the primary airport for domestic and international travel to/from South Africa and is one of 10 airports operated by Airports Company South Africa (ACSA).

This airport places a massive demand on road infrastructure and parking facilities since a majority of travellers get to the airport by motor vehicle. The demand for parking left many people searching for a parking space for eight minutes or more. Frequently, travellers were stranded as they spent too much time looking for parking and missed their flights. This led to a number of complaints to the parking offices from unsatisfied patrons.

The first step that O R Tambo International Airport took to rectify these problems was to install a level counting system. This relayed parking availability information from cash management and access control systems to external electronic signs. The system took information from five different parking facilities and displayed it on 17 external electronic signs.

The electronic signs were installed at all strategic decision-making points to help guide the driver to the correct parking facility and to the level with the most parking spaces available. This system helped drivers make decisions about parking long before they reached the parking facility.

Intelligent parking guidance system, O R Tambo International Airport, South Africa

US$2.225 million

2 years (through 5-6% increase in revenue)

Increased revenue
70% reduction in vehicle emissions
Greatly improved traveller satisfaction
Better utilisation and occupancy of the facility
Average time to find parking space cut from eight to 2.5 minutes

Reduced congestion

This first implementation of parking guidance at the airport reduced traffic congestion on the outlying roads of the airport. Drivers were able to navigate through the airport roadways effortlessly, thereby reducing traffic and incidents on the road network.

However, the problem with this system was that the information being displayed on the signs was only 90 per cent accurate. The loop systems that counted the vehicles entering and exiting the facility were not accurately able to count vehicles for a number of reasons. These included drivers not driving directly over the loop and drivers reversing over the loop so that the car was counted twice. In addition, loops are difficult to maintain in high traffic areas, further impacting accuracy.

To counteract these inaccuracies O R Tambo International Airport had to employ people to constantly count the number of vehicles parked at the different parking facilities and on each parking level. They then had to recalibrate the system at least twice a day to display the correct information.

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Parking bay monitoring system, O R Tambo International Airport, South Africa

Bay monitoring

The solution to these problems was to implement an individual bay monitoring system inside the parking facilities. Since the airport wanted to provide users with highly reliable and accurate information, the only way of doing this was by installing a bay monitoring system that monitors each and every parking space. The airport's main objective was to reduce the time that it took for a motorist to find a parking space.

Phase 1 & 2 of the Intelligent Parking system has been successfully implemented with 12,000 individual bay sensors and over 300 internal aisle boards. It was deployed by US-headquartered Intelligent Devices, which developed the technology and undertook project management and system integration with its local distributor and installer, Sport & Traffic Technologies (SATT). The installation has transformed parking at O R Tambo International Airport and provided a model for other parking installations.

The stakeholders' (operators and the public) perception of and feedback on this deployment has been very positive. As part of this implementation, an integrated software suit has been deployed for the operations room, which includes Intelligent Parking (the parking guidance software), Intelligent NETworks (sign, camera, traffic sensors and device monitoring software) and Intelligent Incident (incident management software). Most importantly, the software and systems that have been installed all conform to the NTCIP open standards. This means that in the future any additional ITS deployments can be undertaken on a plug-and-play basis.

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Parking bay monitoring, O R Tambo International Airport, South Africa

Benefit analysis

The greatest finding was that the users of the parking facility loved the system. As an ACSA Landside Manager commented, it was the "singlemost successful project from a customer relations point of view." Many people phoned in to say how happy they were with the system and how it had saved them valuable time. Newspapers wrote articles congratulating the airport on such a great project that genuinely helps the public.

The parking guidance system drastically reduced the time motorists spent driving around looking for parking. The average time a user spent looking for parking before the system was installed was around eight minutes. The average search time once the system was installed dropped to around 2.5 minutes.

This has had a number of effects:

l Reduced congestion in the parking facilities; l Reduced pollution in the facility as cars circulate for less time and produce fewer emissions (see Environmental analysis below); l Potentially stressful situations are minimised as customers find parking in a timely manner; l Fewer people missed their

flights; and l Fewer incidents and accidents in the parking facility occurred because congestion was minimised.

The system provided real-time capacity management that allows for better auditing capabilities and tracking of customer behaviour. Parking management is able to monitor and change practices to increase revenue and better serve the customer base to encourage parking loyalty. This has led to higher customer satisfaction for old and new customers.

The average utilisation and occupation of the bays has increased significantly because drivers are now directed to an open space more efficiently. As soon as a bay becomes available it is displayed on electronic signs. Drivers are also able to find spaces that were hidden by obstruction and generally not utilised.

The Intelligent Parking Guidance System provides a significant advantage to garage operations, particularly when parking is at a peak. Management is also able to see the peak operation hours and can schedule staff accordingly.

Parking revenues collected at the airport were increased significantly because of better utilisation and occupancy of the facility and because management was able to monitor and change practices to increase revenue in certain areas. Parking revenues have increased by 5-6 per cent directly attributable to the parking guidance system, while vehicle emissions have been reduced by 70 per cent.

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Parking bay monitoring software

Environmental analysis

A detailed analysis of the emissions-reducing and other environmental impact of the parking guidance system is interesting and points to the benefits such deployments can provide, outside of their primary aims and objectives.

The 70 per cent reduction in vehicle emissions was due to vehicles finding a parking space more quickly. With some 15,000 vehicles travelling in and out of O R Tambo International Airports parking facilities each day, vehicles are now circulating for 82,500 minutes less, resulting in a saving of over 30 million minutes a year.

Since one litre of fuel burned produces about 2.4kg of CO2 and a car engine that idles for 50 minutes burns an average of one litre of fuel, the O R Tambo airport project saved passengers an average last year of 602,250 litres of fuel (30,112,500/50 minutes = 602,250 litres). Not only did the airport save its customers over US$560,000 in fuel savings in one year but it reduced carbon emissions for its immediate environment by about 1,445,400kg, or over 1,445 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

Parking Guidance System components

Dynamic message signs
Electronic signs are used to provide information on parking availability in the different facilities. These can be used both externally and inside the garage to display level availability.

Zone boards
Electronic signs that guide users within the parking facility to the correct aisle by displaying the number of bays available in each aisle and directing the motorists with green arrows.

Ultrasonic LED sensors
Electronic sensors used to detect vehicle presence using ultrasound technology. The sensors display bay availability using coloured LED lights.

Wireless outdoor sensors
Outdoor sensor that detects vehicle presence using a magnetometer. The sensor can either be surface mounted or embedded in the ground.

Central Software System
Provides an interface for operators to:
Manage parking processes and availability;
Place messages on the electronic signs;
Log data for reporting and analysis.

Companies in this article

Intelligent Devices

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