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Implement smart parking systems at sites that experience high parking demand, are located close to a major freeway or arterial, and are configured to accommodate parking sensors at entrances and exits to promote accurate parking counts.

Experience with smart parking in Oakland, California

Date Posted

Smart Parking Management Field Test: A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District Parking Demonstration - Final Report

Summary Information

In December 2004, a smart parking system was implemented at the Rockridge Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station in Oakland, California. The overall goal was to improve parking and encouraged commuters to take transit instead of driving in congested traffic conditions.

The system used underground sensors to count vehicles entering and exiting the parking area’s reserve lot. The data collected were relayed to a central computer system where vehicle counts were processed and information on parking availability was posted on an Internet website as well as displayed on two portable dynamic message signs (DMS) located on Highway 24. Travelers were able to view the number of spaces available in real-time and decide to ride transit based on prevailing traffic conditions or make advanced reservations via the Internet.

A centralized intelligent reservation system permitted commuters to check parking availability and make reservations via telephone, mobile phone, Internet, or PDA. Travelers en-route, who used mobile phones to reserve parking spaces were charged an extra $1.00 for the service while travelers who made advanced reservations using the Internet were charged an extra $4.50. To maximize participation in the smart parking test a single user was only allowed to make three parking reservations within a two week period. The service operated from 7:30 AM to 10:00 AM Monday through Friday.

The system was evaluated from December 2004 to April 2006. Fifty (50) of 920 total parking spaces were available for smart park testing. Fifteen (15) of the smart parking spaces were made available to travelers who made advanced reservations on the Internet and the remaining were made available to travelers who decided to smart park en-route.

Lessons Learned

Key success factors for implementing transit facility smart parking systems are detailed below.

Identify sites that reflect project criteria. Smart parking systems are most practical at sites that are at or near maximum parking capacity, are located close to a major freeway or arterial, and have been configured to accommodate parking sensors at entrances and exits to promote accurate parking counts. Planners should consider local economic conditions which can change and affect parking demand.

Designate sufficient time to obtain operating and encroachment permits. These permits address local site conditions, insurance, and the amount of time the project will be permitted to operate. During the Oakland field test, two months were allocated for permitting; however, it ultimately took between six to seven months. A lesson learned was that more time should have been designated for the permitting process (at least six months), and a budget should have been prepared for this stage of the project, including permit funds, review, and safety fees.

Evaluate enforcement technology. Issue PDAs (personal digital assistants) to foot patrols who need access to real-time payment and reservation information to determine status of parked vehicles. Live operators should assist users when parking tickets are issued in error.

Implement user friendly Web sites and IVR systems. In Oakland, users preferred the online reservation system over the telephone IVR (interactive voice recognition) system. Findings from the evaluation indicated that a successful IVR system should repeat and confirm information communicated. Additionally, it should understand verbal commands in noisy environments, such as transit stations. A touchtone option should be available to users having difficulty with the system.

Consider the cost-effectiveness of implementing variable message signs (VMS) on highways and arterials leading to transit stations. In Oakland, some travelers were encouraged to try the service after viewing roadside VMSs everyday on their commute routes. The results of the evaluation, however, indicated that few participants used the information to make parking and travel decisions. Effective message wording is necessary to ensure travelers understand sign communications.

Install sensors that can account for a range of parking lot vehicle movements. Use above-ground sensors to identify vehicles moving at parking lot speed or making atypical vehicle movements (i.e., wide turns). Temporary barriers can be used to improve the performance of in-ground sensors by directing vehicles to move on top of sensors.

Implementing a smart parking system requires careful consideration of various factors, including choice of a site that experiences high parking demand, site’s proximity to a major freeway or arterial, and its ability to accommodate parking sensors at entrances and exits to promote accurate parking counts. Smart parking systems help increase efficiency and mobility in a transportation network.