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Technology Companies Work Together to Improve Parking at San Diego International Airport

September 13, 2018

Kristin Phillips

Although this article mentions a number of suppliers, PT felt that it communicated a success story that was built around seven companies combining forces to provide systems required by the customer. –Editor


When San Diego International Airport decided to build a new parking garage, airport officials wanted it to be as user-friendly and convenient to manage as possible. To that end, they worked with some of the parking industry’s leading technology companies to create a suite of technologies that could be integrated with each other to offer travelers a seamless parking experience. The recently completed $127.8 million Terminal 2 Parking Plaza achieved its goal and more.


The three-story garage features 2,900 spaces and sits opposite Terminal 2, sandwiched between the terminal roadway and the bay. Built atop an existing surface lot, the new structure opened in May after a nearly two-year construction period. The extra parking capacity will be essential because the airport will soon start preliminary work to replace Terminal 1, and in the process will move an employee parking lot to accommodate construction. 


The World’s Most Advanced Airport Parking Suite


The new Terminal 2 Parking Plaza stands out in many ways. The garage is an artistic triumph, with natural light, public art, views of the San Diego Bay, and places for travelers to relax before and after their flights. But what really sets it apart is its technology. The new Terminal 2 garage boasts the world’s most advanced airport parking technology suite, which combines state-of-the-art access and revenue control equipment, parking guidance technology, license plate recognition, and pre-booking.


San Diego International Airport’s new Terminal 2 Parking Plaza demonstrates how airports can use parking technology to improve the travel experience while, at the same time, enhance airport management amenities,” said Dan Kupferman, a principal at Walker Consultants. “When travelers are able to park faster, and with no hassles, they feel better, and have more time to take advantage of the amenities.  Everybody wins.”


SKIDATA Inc. was given the task of building an integrated frictionless parking suite that would permit travelers to enter the garage without stopping to take a ticket and guide them to an available space. Upon the conclusion of the trip, the system recognizes the vehicle, allowing it to leave the garage without stopping at an exit gate.


The parking experience actually begins before travelers leave for the airport. A Chauntry reservations platform permits travelers to reserve and pay for their parking in advance. At the time of booking, travelers pay for parking and are issued a barcode, which can be printed or sent to a smart device. The barcode is then used by the parker to enter and exit the garage, just as they will later use their boarding passes to board their flight. The platform is integrated into the technology suite, permitting seamless entering and exiting.


“Being able to reserve parking before leaving for the airport is an invaluable amenity for travelers,” said Theresa Hughes, Chief Executive Officer of Chauntry. “Traveling can be stressful enough without having to worry about whether you’ll be able to find a parking space and get into the terminal quickly to make your flight. The parking reservations platform eliminates that stress.”


The parking experience actually begins before travelers leave
for the airport.


San Diego International Airport becomes the first airport in the United States to offer Parkspace v. 18, the world’s most advanced parking reservations platform. The platform allows frequent travelers to create a user account, which includes personal and payment information, to provide a quicker and more convenient pre-booking experience when traveling in the future. The user interface allows quick and seamless integration into the platform, and parkers can use it on any device.


The frictionless technology suite utilizes SKIDATA access control gates to manage the garage’s entrances and exits. Vehicle identification is handled by Inex license plate recognition (LPR) equipment for transient parkers and Transcore automatic vehicle recognition (AVR) for permit holders. The technology can also associate the parker’s license plate number with the transaction.


For those who have made a reservation online, all payment is transacted online, and the customer may exit seamlessly using the available LPR technology. Additionally, if a customer takes a ticket at entry, and pays online or at a pay-on-foot machine, the equipment will recognize the license plate from the entry, and let the car out automatically. 


“Frictionless parking represents the future of parking,” said Lester Mascon, Head of Operations for SKIDATA. “Travelers to San Diego International Airport now enjoy the most convenient parking experience imaginable. Because of this frictionless parking suite, travelers can just breeze in and out of parking without giving it a thought.”


Parking guidance is provided through a custom-designed INDECT advanced UPSOLUT parking guidance system (PGS)to monitor where open parking spaces are available and guide travelers directly to open spots. Each sensor monitors up to 6 parking spaces, and the sensors have an integrated LED space indicator panel that can be set to any color of the rainbow. Generally, the indicators are set to green for a free space and red if the spaces are occupied, but can also be set to other colors such as blue for handicapped and white for EV or other colors to identify premium or preferred spaces. 


The lights are clearly visible to drivers when they enter so they can quickly determine where spaces are available. The system also features a comprehensive signage plan with 189 high-visibility, 7-segment LED parking guidance signs to provide easy directions from anywhere in the garage. The PGS is integrated with the frictionless parking system which allows the airport to zone premium parking areas and offer a ‘Find My Car’ system for travelers who forget where they parked.


The sensors were supplied in a custom color of white per the airports design to match the ceiling color of the garage. The sensors are also mounted on a custom aluminum rail system that was designed specifically for the project. Because the garage is located close to the Pacific Ocean, the highest-grade aluminum was used to withstand the coastal environment.


“This is a beautiful parking facility, and it was imperative that the parking guidance system enhance the overall character of the garage,” said Dale Fowler, President of INDECT USA. “We were able to install the sensors with no exposed conduits to provide a clean visual appearance and make it fit seamlessly into the structure’s design.”


While the parking guidance system is obviously an important customer service amenity, it also provides a number of important administrative benefits, both in the garage itself and in the terminal. For instance, by directing travelers straight to available parking, the system eliminates the risk that drivers who are looking for parking will give up and leave the garage. Airports typically consider their facilities fully occupied when 85 to 90% of the spaces are full, so being able to fill those final 10 to 15% of spaces can mean additional revenues every day. By getting travelers out of their cars and into the terminal quickly, the system assures that travelers will have more time in the terminal where they are more likely to shop and dine. The technology also helps reduce air emissions caused by vehicles circulating and idling while searching for an available parking space. 


“Ultimately, the parking guidance system will improve the bottom lines of both the garage and stores and restaurants in the terminal,” said Fowler. “It’s really a win/win for both the airport and travelers.”


The final element of the technology suite is the implementation of wireless Nedap in-ground sensors on the garage rooftop. The occupancy data collected by the rooftop sensors is fed into a cloud based software interface developed by IPsens for dissemination into the PGS program. The open IP system will permit the airport and its technology staff and consultants to work together to constantly improve the software and the technology it’s managing, permitting the software to adapt to the airport’s evolving parking management needs. 


“Open IP is the future of parking software,” said Gorm Tuxen, president of IPsens. “The beauty of the open IP approach—beyond improving the operations of a single piece of equipment or technology suite—is that it encourages sharing among parking organizations and their technology gurus. Airports and other parking owners can explore, experiment, and share the results of those experiments to create innovative new ways to utilize different types of equipment.”


Terminal 2 Parking Plaza’s parking technology suite will serve as a model to other airports looking to modernize or upgrade their parking facilities. It offers an extraordinary blend of customer service and administrative benefits, and the suite should serve as a template for other airports. 


“This is a smart business model – and not just for airports,” said Walker’s Kupferman. “We expect to see this at other venues as well. Kudos to the airport, and to the technology providers.”


Kristin Phillips is a business writer covering the parking industry. She can be reached at
kristinlphillips1@gmail.com.



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