Cutting-edge technology to block parking freeloaders

LA transport giant, Metro, is linking its new parking operation to its transit TAP card to keep parking spaces for commuters using the network, rather than non-transit users taking parking resources to avoid paying up to $5 an hour for parking elsewhere. Metro is using cutting-edge technology to reclaim its Park & Ride parking spaces for transit riders. Metro says that until a nominal $3/day parking fee was introduced in April, transit riders arriving at busy stations often found it almost impossible to get a parking space unless they arrived extra early on weekday mornings.

To combat the congestion and stop non-commuters getting a parking free ride, Metro has brought in international specialists Global Parking Solutions (GPS) – whose US base is in Philadelphia – to create a solution to weed out the interlopers.

GPS responded with its “pay-by-plate” system but took it further to produce a smart meter that links parking to the use of Metro’s Transit Access Program (TAP) card, remembers transit riders’ license plates, and blocks non-transit users.

In what GPS believes to be a world first, the solar-powered meters also give change to cash-users.

“We had a unique and specific set of requirements,” said Frank Ching, Senior Director of Countrywide Parking Management for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“GPS was the only company that listened and entertained the possibility of what we were trying to achieve.

“GPS essentially custom-built a meter based on our requirements. They did what they said they would do, even before any commitment from us to buy anything from them.”

The next stage of the system will see the meter interrogate Metro’s transit system to see if the person parking actually uses the transit system, to stop people using their TAP card to get cheap parking when they are not actually commuting. If they don’t ride the system within a set period they’ll be issued a citation.

GPS Global Sales and Marketing Manager Dion Knill said the whole aim of the exercise was to get maximum parking and to serve transit riders.

“Like in a lot of big cities around the world, Metro wants to get people out of their cars and on to public transport,” he said.

“But if commuters can’t use Park & Ride car parks, that defeats the purpose.

“What we’ve done is come up with an elegant solution to the problem, that is as automated as possible, as simple for the user as possible, and as effective as possible.”

The elegance of the solution extends to the stainless steel and aluminum meter machine itself, which is solar and battery-powered, has a minimal footprint, communicates its status in real time and will accept payment in bills – and gives change – credit cards and proximity cards, and via mobile phones.

“While the research and development for these machines is done in New Zealand, GPS also uses technology from world-leading companies like Passport and Genetec for features like the mobile phone payment system,” Knill said.

GPS is part of the Linfox Armaguard Group that employs more than 20,000 people worldwide. GPS has been designing and manufacturing parking solution for over 20 years, having installed over 10,000 meters throughout the USA and Canada, as well as Britain, Australia and New Zealand managing 35+ million transactions per year and controlling 72,000 spaces.

The Metro method

One of the most frustrating things for a Metro user is to arrive at a Park & Ride lot and find all the spaces taken – many of them by people who are not commuters but cashing in on the generous parking rate.

Park & Ride spaces are for commuters and Global Parking Solutions has developed its system to weed out as many of the freeloaders as possible.

To do this our meter requires commuters to also tap their TAP card when they pay for their parking then interrogates the Metro system to ensure the parker actually rides the system within a set time.

A bonus feature allows a TAP card holder to save their plate details against their TAP card, so they don’t have to re-enter it every time they park and ride.

Integration is one of the things GPS is good at. Our meter integrates with the Metro permit provider, TAP card ridership, and LPR enforcement system, to provide a seamless operation.

It works like this:

  1. Vehicle enters the lot and the license plate is captured by the Genetec LPR and Genetec management system “Freeflow” and a grace period begins
  2. User pays at the pay station or a valid permit is found in the permit database and the plate parking expiry time is sent to Freeflow
  3. The GPS system then interrogates the Metro travel system and if the user does not travel within a set time, a citation is issued.
  4. When the vehicle exits, the plate is captured by the LPR camera and removed from the Freeflow parked vehicles list.

* If no valid plate is found in the permit system and no payment is made, the plate is flagged to the Freeflow system and a violation flagged.

Left: Frank Ching – Senior Director of Countywide Parking Management, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Right: Stacie Endler – Principal Transportation Planner, Parking Management, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

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