The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) District, the rail agency serving the San Francisco Bay area, includes a total of 43 stations, with approximately 46,000 parking spaces at 31 stations. Due to the Bay area's high share of transit commuters, parking at the stations is in high demand. Many of the BART stations have a parking shortage, especially during peak commute hours, and it is difficult to secure land and funding for additional spaces. In 2002, BART implemented a monthly reserved parking program to guarantee commuters a space during peak hours. However, when monthly subscribers do not take transit everyday, reserved spaces are underutilized. From 2004 to 2006, researchers implemented a smart parking field test at the Rockridge, Oakland BART station to complement the monthly reserved program by providing daily flexibility during the morning commute to those who do not use transit everyday.
The project included in-ground sensors in the BART parking lot to determine available parking spaces, two changeable message signs (CMSs) located on the highway that display dynamically updated parking availability information for motorists, and a computer reservation system accessible via the Internet and a telephone Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. This paper examines the institutional, user perspective, and operational lessons learned from the smart parking field test.
Throughout the design and implementation of a project, issues may arise that add time and money to the project schedule and budget. The following demonstrates the lessons learned from the schedule and budget challenges experienced by those involved in the BART smart parking field test.
- Be aware of economic fluctuations that can impact site selection. In order to test the effect of smart parking technologies on parking demand, researchers created site selection criteria that included a location that was at or near maximum parking capacity. An initial site was chosen; however an economic downturn in the Bay Area lessened the parking demand at the station before the project began. Thus, a new site was chosen that met the site selection criteria.
- Allocate additional time for the project scoping phase and permitting process. Numerous public and private agencies were involved in developing and implementing the smart parking field test. While the project partners anticipated project delays associated with coordinating the numerous agencies and addressing project variables, they found that their initial schedule of six months for the scoping phase was inadequate and an additional three months was needed. Similarly, the field test required numerous permits in order to install and operate equipment in the BART and Caltrans rights-of-way. The project partners allocated two months for permitting, however, it took between six to seven months to secure all necessary permits.
- Budget for an impact evaluation on highway traffic flow due to the CMSs. The changeable message signs (CMSs) used in the BART smart parking field test were placed on Highway 24 before and after a heavily traveled three-bore tunnel. Researchers were interested in determining whether the signs impeded traffic. However, the traffic impact analysis was limited and did not result in accurate information. If CMSs are to be used, it is important to plan and budget for a detailed CMS impact evaluation in order to ensure that they are not negatively affecting highway traffic flow.
- Invest in enforcement technology and personnel. During the field test, parking reservations were enforced using two methods: 1) a list of license plate numbers for vehicles with reservations was faxed to the enforcement officer; and 2) two personal digital assistants (PDAs) were assigned to enforcement personnel to access registered smart parking user license plate information. The field test did not employ enough PDAs for each enforcement personnel because the budget did not plan for them. Those enforcement personnel without the PDAs experienced difficulty in identifying vehicles that did not have a valid smart parking registration. The partners involved agreed that an increased investment in enforcement technology would be beneficial in the future.
The experiences of the smart parking field test at the Rockridge, Oakland BART station indicate the diversity of project variables that need to be considered when determining a project's budget and schedule. The project management team should allocate sufficient time and resources to address anticipated issues, and anticipate that additional issues are sure to arise unexpectedly.