A DYNAMIC DUO
Parking Sense U.S.A. and LA Metro
What do you get when you pair a relatively new parking technology company with a powerful, established metropolitan parking institution? A contract made in Parking Heaven.
The LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), which operates 87 parking facilities at 54 Metro stations throughout the county, has commissioned Parking Sense U.S.A. to install its EasyGuide parking guidance system (PGS) in all of Metro’s parking facilities. The turnkey, multimillion-dollar five-year contract is possibly the largest PGS contract ever issued in the U.S.
Starting with an RFP dispatched months ago, the process of selecting the parking technology, coupled with a company that met or exceeded their expectations, was a daunting task for Metro officials.
They knew going in that an RFP of this scope, which would completely change their current operations and data-collecting procedures, would attract the best of the best in the parking technology industry, but would most probably last a few months. No surprise there, although the process ended up taking about eight months to finalize.
“Ultimately, it was worth the wait,” said Frank Ching, Metro’s Senior Director of Countywide Parking Management. “The parking industry is a very fast-paced business. We had to find a system that would keep up with (or a step ahead of) continuously evolving parking technology and would not be outdated by the time all of the systems were installed.”
Metro knew it was long overdue for a change. Based on a survey conducted by consultants, 80% of Metro’s park-and-ride transit patrons said it takes them up to six minutes to find a parking space. Other surveys indicated that those who cannot find a parking space within six minutes leave the facility and find other parking alternatives or drive directly to their destination. The data collection was focused on peak hours versus at multiple times during the day, leaving the data set incomplete.
More important, when occupancy data were collected, Metro did not have the capability to broadcast the parking availability information to its transit riders. Those who did park-and-ride at heavily used parking facilities ended up circulating the parking lot, sometimes multiple lots, adding time and frustration to their commutes.
It was time for a major overhaul, Metro decided.
Its current practice of manually obtaining parking occupancy was labor intensive, expensive and difficult to gather. Metro’s goal was to find a universal system that could be implemented in any kind of parking facility it operated, from surface lots to garages. And with 26,000 parking spaces to manage, Ching admits this was a tall order.
Many of the parking management systems presented to Metro would not necessarily work on all of its lots, he said. Metro was familiar with data-counting practices such as magnetic field sensors and speed bump counts, which Ching explained could not effectively satisfy their concerns for accuracy.
Enter the Parking Sense EasyGuide system, which uses infrared vehicle-count technology to capture incoming/outgoing traffic, said to be the most precise and efficient data-collecting format. As simple as that sounds, Metro concluded that it had found the perfect solution to officials’ concerns.
Adding to the requirement of obtaining vehicle-count data that supports parking-demand management and long-term planning, Metro wanted to improve customer service by being able to broadcast parking space availability on a real-time basis through a variety of electronic media, including mobile apps, websites, programmable electronic signs and email.
Parking Sense U.S.A. CEO Jake Bezzant believed that its cutting-edge PGS was just what the doctor ordered for Metro and spearheaded the project from the beginning. JD Enterprises was hired as the Project Management & Integration Partner. Converse Construction did the installation.
What Bezzant was able to do from the get-go was impress the heck out of Ching and the LA Metro group. His vast knowledge and consistent, rapid response to whatever questions they had about the system had a huge impact on Metro, especially considering the scope of the project.
“The level of responsiveness tells you a lot about the company and how they will work with you over the ensuing years,” Ching said. “You first have to be made aware that the proposal is meeting every requirement to even be given a second look. But it is the level of responsiveness that is very telling about the ethics of the company and what you can expect from them over the next five years.”
Ching went on to say that Bezzant never let more than a few hours lag between a call or email before responding with detailed, complete answers or solutions.
In turn, Bezzant said he is as excited to work with Metro as its officials are about the new system. “We are proud to provide LA Metro with such an outstanding product,” he said. “The EasyGuide PGS is truly the total package, from concept to implementation and management. We own the IP [intellectual property]. The hardware, lights and signs won’t change in the future, but the way the data are used will. And we will be there to manage and update it as needed.”
In a nutshell, Bezzant said, “our system is truly future-proof.”
Metro’s Ching noted that Parking Sense has completed the first phase of installation and anticipates completing all 87 locations within the next two years, with the help of LA Metro Principal Transportation Planner Stacie Endler, who is managing all day-to-day aspects under Ching.
“Being that LA Metro is such a demanding client,” Ching added, “the industry is looking at this sizeable project as a role model.”
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