‘It’s Just So Simple ...’
The driver is asked to simply enter his phone number, or any 7-10 digit number, on a keypad at the entry lane. The gate opens and he parks.
When the driver returns, he visits a kiosk consisting of a keypad on an iPad-size display and a credit card reader. He enters his phone number (or 7-10 digit number), and the amount due appears on the screen. He dips his credit card and, seconds later, is told to exit. (If the driver wishes, he can get a receipt.)
At the exit lane, he rolls up to the gate, it opens, and he drives off. Simple as that.
Whoa, you say, there must be something else involved. There is.
At the entry lane, the driver’s license plate number is captured and linked to his phone number. When he leaves, the system checks his license number (through automatic license plate recognition, or ALPR), notes that he has paid, and opens the gate.
Wilson told PT that, with the exception of the receipt printer at the payment kiosk, there are no moving parts in the Flow Thru system. “Nothing to jam, break down or need maintenance.”
In addition, long-time parking auditor Wilson has a program that has no tickets to audit and no one on-site who can override the electronics and open gates.
But what happens when I forget my phone number or invert some numbers when I arrive? Wilson smiled and pointed to a camera above the payment kiosk.
“The system is connected to our central office in Austin,” he said. “Mary Beth [McNair] is watching what is going on in the garage, and when a customer has a problem, she can see the transaction on her screen in Texas.
“In this case [you describe], she would ask the customer to drive to the exit lane, where the ALPR would capture the license plate, compare it with an earlier entry, and give Mary Beth all the information she needs to tell the customer how much to pay, which he can do right in the exit lane by dipping a credit card.
“Loma Linda [University] has opted not to accept cash in its new garage, so there’s no banknote or coin function at the payment kiosk; however, that is available where it’s needed,” Wilson said.
“We also have a model of our entry and exit kiosks that has a standard keyboard in addition to the touch keypad on the display. In cold climates, touchpads work slowly,” he noted, “and people with gloves often can’t interact with the display. The physical keyboard solves that problem.”
“I have been auditing garages for more years than I care to admit,” Wilson told us. “Tickets and reports always cause problems. This [Flow Thru] system resolves those issues and enables us to have a perfect open and close every day.”
OK, what about monthlies?
“The license plate recognition system handles that, and if there is a ‘nonread,’ the driver simply keys in his phone number, which is on file, and he enters the garage. We then send him a text to which he must respond so we can verify who he says he is and we will then allow him to exit. If a card is required, we can use standard AVI to augment the ALPR system.”
“ANPR [automatic number plate recognition] is extremely accurate these days,” he said, “and greatly speeds up the entry and exit process. If there is an error, the phone number system is a perfect backup.
“It’s just so simple,” Wilson said with a smile. “The lanes are clean, the system is quick, and the customer is happy.”
John Van Horn is editor of Parking Today and can be reached at