Automated System Improves Management in Car Parks in Israel
If a parking management company operator were asked what is the most important information he needs to know at any given moment, and the most important tool at his disposal, what do you think he would say?
There are many similarities between the world of air travel, lodging,
Presumably, 20 years ago, the answer would have been that the most crucial information is knowing the lot’s revenue in a detailed manner and having a payment system that allows a customer to pay with a credit card or cash. However, if presented with the same question today, in 2022, what would he answer? In short, the answer would be statistics.
This article strives to explain the change parking-lot companies have undergone in recent years. It will elaborate on the use of technology as a tool to collect real-time data, automatic analysis of prices and users’ history, and generate price recommendations.
There are many similarities between the world of air travel, lodging, and parking. If we were to take, for example, a 5-star hotel in London with 200 rooms, the hotel manager’s objective is to have all 200 rooms occupied every night of the year. Each night when even one room is not occupied is, essentially, a loss. Why? Because once the sunk costs, including electricity, property tax, cleaning, and room services, have already been paid – the objective is to fill the hotel.
A night not sold today cannot be sold tomorrow.
The airline carriers operate on a similar principle. A plane with 330 seats taking off from Tel Aviv with less than 330 passengers is de facto money lost. Another important detail: there is no uniform price for all passengers, and there is a large variation in quoted prices. This is also true for the hotel industry.
One customer may buy tickets to a flight or reserve a room at a hotel a few months ahead of time and enjoy a lower price than a passenger who buys spots for the same flight and hotel a few nights before arrival.
Central Park Ltd. manages 50 car parks in Israel. These lots are located in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and other prime locations around Israel. Motivated by airline and hotel industries’ models, Central Park has adapted those models to be suitable for parking lots.
Occasionally, while touring our various lots, we discovered that a particular lot had a low occupancy rate compared to other lots in the area. A quick visit to other parking lots in the vicinity revealed that the entry fee to our lot was much higher than the rest. The opposite effect was observed: our lot was full as early as 10 AM because the entry fee we charged was very low, or a nearby competing lot was recently shut down.
Asking the manager to tour the lot daily, compare the prices, and check the capacity at every given moment is impractical. It isn’t easy to expect an employee to monitor disparate factors influencing occupancy rates and prices. In addition to nearby competing lots, various external factors can affect a lot’s success, such as weather conditions and seasonality. Furthermore, even during the winter, a sunny day that drives people out can affect a lot’s success, and we should be ready for it.
Automated Management System
We developed a novel system that displays the capacity and revenue at our different locations. The following goals were determined for the system:
• Real-time display capacity data at all parking lot locations and in all control systems.
• Based on predetermined settings, receiving real-time alert notifications, via email or SMS, regarding low or high occupancy rates.
Central Park uses two revenue control systems: (1) Tibaparking and (2) Scheidt & Bachmann. We approached the representatives of these companies in Israel and explained our goal in developing this project and our requests. Following these meetings, they sent us the API of every lot. At last, it was decided how the completed product should look with the development company, including discussions regarding UX-UI, because we understood the importance of the user’s interface.
The “Occupancy” button presents real-time data from all the parking lots. The screen is displayed in the control room, which aids attendants in analyzing changes at every given moment. The system may also be able to filter and tag results by city or specific parking lot.
System’s warning screen based on the discussion earlier.
In this screen, one may define the following elements:
1- The periods in which warnings may be sent. For example, the parking lot “Dovnnov” is open from 7:00 to 24:00. In that time, excluding 1:00 AM-6:00 AM when occupancy is understandably low, we would like to receive warnings about the lot’s occupancy peaks and drops, i.e., when the occupancy is very high or very low.
2- Whether warnings should be sent by email, SMS, or both.
3- Configuration of “Alert Message.”
Each manager has privileged access to his location and, using this system, the manager can monitor data updates, and modify settings.
Another parameter that was added:
• We uploaded all our parking lots to a map with coordinates and all competing lots in the vicinity.
• Ability to compare our prices against our competitors and display the results on the same screen.
System monitors the situation at each parking lot.
With these warnings and data inputs, it is easy to monitor the situation at each parking lot without accessing each lot’s control system and analyzing occupancy rates at different times. It is also possible to receive and cancel alerts regarding the situation of the lot, according to predefined parameters.
Today, during his weekly tour, our regional manager can update the system on the prices charged by our competitors. The system allows us to assess whether our prices are set according to the competitive environment in which we operate.
These days we enjoy the productivity of the system. Things that in the past that would take weeks or months, take us a day or two to adjust to a new situation.
Yossi Biton is a senior manager at Central Park in Tel Aviv.