Drive Parking Tech Up a Level

There are many ways that airports can leverage parking technology to meet consumer demands, elevate customer service and drive revenue

Travelers may take their ticket to a cashier if they are uncomfortable leaving card info, but Gulati says 80 percent of DTW’s parking business are by credit card and 20 percent of those transactions have already transitioned to the 1>2>3 option. The system also takes a picture of vehicle license plates, so upon exiting, they can be compared to the credit card number for security purposes. DTW brings in $65 million per year through this automated system.


Wide Open Spaces

It used to be that a large sign outside the airport told passengers whether or not there was room in a parking structure, and if they were lucky, the number of spaces. Today, signage technology has improved to the extent that it directs passengers to open spots. A single-space sensor system, with a sensor placed above each parking space, relays when a vehicle pulls in or out. If it’s in use, the LED light above the space turns red. If open, it turns green.

The number of spaces available in any garage can be communicated through signs around the airport: a large sign at the entrance and then others on each level. Signs within individual drive aisles offer passengers information on the number of spaces available in each aisle, and in each direction. Smartphone apps and websites also communicate parking info to the public.

Advanced parking signage also offers a benefit airports may not consider initially. From a sustainable approach, emissions and fuel usage is reduced because vehicles are not aimlessly cruising up and down drive aisles trying to find an open spot. A study he spearheaded at in the Johannesburg, South Africa, airport revealed the average search time dropped from 26 minutes to 2.5 minutes upon installation of the single-space sensor program, and saved the airport about 8 tons of emissions each year.


Give the Green Light

Airport parking is going green in more ways than just eliminating CO2 emissions. With more than 100,000 electric cars currently operated in the United States, and more added each day, charging stations are becoming a demand, not a luxury, for public parking areas. This year alone, electric car sales are predicted to add 70,000 vehicles to the roads.

Gulati says that DTW has had electric vehicle stations since 2011, and they have been a very popular option. Two are on the 8th floor of the McNamara Terminal parking deck, the largest airport parking structure in the world, and two are on the 4th floor of the Big Blue Deck near the North Terminal. There is no additional fee to use these spaces, and they are conveniently located by the terminals. With the Chevrolet Volts being manufactured just 20 miles down the road, DTW is excited to offer this service for its passengers.

Allen Will, the director of Business Development and Programs with Telefonix Inc., says the Waukegan, Ill, company has launched the L1 PowerPost, a commercial Level 1 charging station. It’s a lower cost per unit than a Level 2, and uses less voltage, which is a good fit for an airport setting. The L1 is a 120-volt, 16-amp unit. Will lives in Chicago and drives his car into short-term parking for three- or four-day work trips. “The shortest trip from an airport is a day trip,” he explains, a minimum of 10-12 hours. In just eight hours, Will’s Chevy Volt can have a complete charge using the L1 PowerPost, while a Level 2 unit can do it in four. Will says that at an airport, the Level 1 unit is completely sufficient, and will save an airport money, even offer the ability to install more charging stations. “You don’t need the higher-powered equipment for these types of facilities,” he says.

Will says that an electric car charging station is a sound business investment for an airport. It also can be a money-maker, whether charging more for the spot, or developing a marketing plan around it.


A Partnership that Pays

For those who don’t want the hassle of parking, a completely new option has hit the streets in 19 cities worldwide. Callender explains that Car2Go is a car-sharing program which uses a fleet of modified Smart and electric Smart cars to help people move around, including to and from airports. He uses a mobile app to find available Car2Go cars nearby, as well view their interior and exterior condition, and fuel levels, before every trip.

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