No Tickets, and a Smooth Parking Operation

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No Tickets, and a Smooth Parking Operation

 When Goddard Investment Group took over the I. M. Pei-designed Fountain Place tower in downtown Dallas, VP Gary V. Bennett’s goal was to bring the 30-year-old facility up to 21st century standards. This meant that he had to look at everything from interiors and exteriors to elevators and parking.
Bennett also wanted a state-of-the-art garage. He had experience with a number of systems at his home base in Atlanta, and was familiar with some of the issues dealing with revenue control systems. His main concerns: tickets and staffing. 
He determined that while doing away with entry tickets and replacing them with a license plate recognition (LPR) system was possible, the realities of the technology told him that he needed some way to track vehicles when the LPR misread. 
For a solution, Bennett turned to Clyde B. Wilson Jr. and his Flow Thru Technologies. President and Owner of The Parking Network, Wilson had pioneered a system of central control of parking from his offices in Austin, TX. He was able to remove staff from garages, but knew there were still issues that complicated a central station operation. Most dealt with tickets (lost, misreads, ticket jams) and those of getting monthly cards to contract parkers, either to new customers or those who lost their cards. 
With the Flow Thru PARC system, daily parkers are asked to enter their phone number (or any 7- or 10-digit number) at entry. That number is then paired with the vehicle’s license number. The parker pays at a central device that takes only credit cards by entering their phone number (or other number they input on entry). 
The system then marks the license number connected to that card as paid, and when the vehicle reaches the exit gate, the license is read and the gate opened. In the few cases where there is a license misread, the parker enters his number at exit.
Monthly parkers sign up online and input their vehicle license numbers. As they approach the gate, the system reads their license plates and the gate opens. 
“We actually had to slow down the system a bit so people would slow down in the entry and exit lanes,” Wilson said. “We were able to read the numbers so quickly and ‘pop’ the gate that drivers would speed through the lanes.”
If the system can’t read the plate (e.g., a trailer hitch blocks the view), the monthly parker reverts to the phone number input.
Receipts can be found on the driver’s credit card invoice, or can be sent by text to his phone. Validations are handled online through an app that is downloaded to each tenant. The parker’s entry number is input, and the appropriate validation applied to it. 
Since there are no tickets to jam or be misread or be lost, and no cards to distribute, the vast majority of calls to the central control station are eliminated. 
Brent Van Loggerenberg, President of installing dealer Nguni Parking Solutions, stressed the importance of a well-planned installation. 
“A poor installation can really screw things up,” he said. “The cameras, lighting and lane equipment must be properly mounted and calibrated. Each component is critical to how well the system operates.”
Goddard Investment’s Bennett agreed. “The system must run smoothly, but it also must look first-rate. We can’t have a world-class facility with surface-mounted conduit and sloppy lanes and islands. We are building a new subsurface garage next to Fountain Place and will carry the system over to it. 
“We will have the best parking operation in The [Dallas/Fort Worth] Metroplex and the best ratio of spaces to staff,” Bennett said. “A clean, crisp, well-run operation is critical to the overall attractiveness of our facility.
“Our goal was to remove all parking bookkeeping services from the site and reduce staff to as near to zero as possible. We have no parking staff on-site, and the system runs smoothly,” he said. “Any issues are handled by Brent’s central office [at Nguni Parking Solutions], as well as monthly card and validation sales. This system exceeded our expectations.”
“We hear from time to time that people don’t want to put in their telephone numbers, as a privacy concern,” said Wilson of Flow Thru Technologies. “Here in Dallas, we have had zero, zip, nada complaints. At an installation in the DC area, we have had three complaints, and when told they could put in any number, they were happy. This is not an issue. 
“We had one woman tell us that she wouldn’t give her number because she worked for a ‘classified’ agency,” he said. “When we told her she could use any number, she smiled and input 0101010101.
“The realities of LPR are that, in the U.S., reliability depends on the location. In Texas, we get valid reads in the very high nineties, upwards of 98 plus percent. Virtually all the license plates are the same,” Wilson said. “In the DC area, for instance, we see plates from six states and the District, all with different fonts and colors. Reading them is more difficult. Our percentage drops a few points there.”
Wilson added: “As an auditor, we know that garages have built-in lost ticket issues. When a person pulls a ticket, then goes to the office and purchases a monthly card, they leave on the card. Only the best-run facilities pick up that ticket and account for it. 
“No ticket – no lost tickets.”
Fllow Thru software is designed and managed by Lalith Caldera of Eyepax. Clyde Says, “I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job, Eyepax has really done superb work and we have been able to count on them right from the beginning when Flow was nothing more than a bunch of drawings on paper.”     
 
Contact John Van Horn, Editor of Parking Today, at
jvh@parkingtoday.com.
Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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