Technology Advances in Parking Facilities are Saving Owners Money, Users Time

By Dan Kupferman  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: This PagePt. 2: In Parking Structures, Green Technologies a Growing TrendPt. 3: Parking Access and Revenue Control (PARC) Technology ImprovingPt. 4: Parking Structures Use Mobile Technology for Flexibility

Technological innovation is transforming the design and operation of parking facilities. Indeed, a revolution of sorts is in the works, with new technologies leading to the creation of comprehensive parking management programs that provide parking structures that are more user-friendly, efficient, and profitable than ever before.

Some of the changes are impossible to miss: paying for parking at an automated pay station rather than at a cashier booth; roof-top solar panels that help power parking facilities; and modern signage showing how many parking spaces are available and directing drivers to the open spaces. Other advances are less obvious, though no less important. These include new lighting technologies that create brighter, safer structures while reducing operating costs, and smart phone apps that locate and price parking spaces before a driver arrives.

These advances promise to provide particularly important operational and financial benefits to owners and operators of parking facilities. And the financial benefits are particularly timely. Over the past five years, the average cost of operating a parking structure has risen by 20 percent, and many owners are feeling the crunch of these rising costs.

Cost Savings from Lighting

One of the most expensive operational elements for any parking structure is electricity. Over the past decade, energy costs have risen in spite of continued low inflation. Lighting, in particular, poses challenges for parking owners. It plays an essential role in parking operations, particularly in providing a safer experience for customers by improving visibility. As a result, parking facilities must be heavily illuminated whenever they are open, and, for safety reasons, many are well-lit even when they're closed.

Fortunately, recent advances in lighting technologies are reducing operating costs.

Fluorescent lighting has come back into vogue in recent years, thanks to improved fixtures that provide a more even light distribution and higher functionality in cold weather. This has been welcome news to building owners, as this type of lighting can provide significant energy savings compared to the more expensive metal halide (MH) and high-pressure sodium (HPS) fixtures common in the 1990s.

Light-emitting diodes (LED) come with a significantly higher first cost, but also a much longer lamp life. The jury is still out on which solution provides the best value in the long run, but both fluorescent and LED lights are now saving owners money.

LED technologies also offer significant parking guidance benefits. One of the most important elements of any parking facility's design is the extent to which it permits parkers to simply and intuitively make their way throughout the structure and find open parking spaces. Many parking structures rely on illuminated signage to direct parkers to open spaces. LED signage is particularly useful in this regard because it is more readable than other types of illuminated signage.

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  posted on 3/14/2012   Article Use Policy

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