The Promise Of Parking Technology For America’s Airports

Feb. 22, 2018
Investing in parking technology allows airports to provide a better traveler experience and increase revenues.

Parking is an extraordinarily important asset for America’s airports. From the traveler’s perspective, parking can have a huge impact on their satisfaction with the travel experience provided by a particular airport. For airports, parking is typically an important source of revenue. In fact, many airports earn more from parking than they do from gate fees.

In light of the important role of parking, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many airports are investing in technology designed to provide a better parking experience while making parking more manageable. The technology revolution that has transformed our day-to-day lives has reached the parking industry, and airports are reaping the benefits.

“The parking industry is in the midst of a parking revolution that has seen the introduction of numerous exciting new parking technologies,” said Dan Kupferman, director of Car Park Management Systems for Walker Parking Consultants. “Technology has made parking more efficient, more precise, and easier to operate. It’s also making parking more customer-friendly than ever before, which is great news for travelers.

“Airports are competing for business like never before and airport administrators are finding that parking can deliver that competitive edge,” continued Kupferman. “Owners are often surprised at how much better the parking experience can be thanks to technology. There are so many technological tools to choose from, including parking access and revenue control, parking guidance systems, and license plate recognition, to name just a few. Implementing one or more really can make a major impact –on both the customer and the bottom line.”

Access And Revenue Control

Parking access and revenue control systems (PARCS) have long been cornerstone of airport parking systems. PARCS equipment controls who enters and exits parking facilities, while at the same time managing how users pay. Today’s PARCS equipment can accept cash, credit cards, loyalty program IDs, and many other types of credentials.

PARCS is also the key to of one of the most exciting new trends in parking: frictionless parking. Frictionless parking permits drivers to park without interacting with traditional payment systems, and it revolves around a suite of technologies built on top of a Parking Access Control System, such as license plate recognition (LPR), barcode readers, and reservation software, that make parking seamless and interactive by removing the need to stop at gates to enter or stop at exits to pay. Parkers just drive in and out as they wish, and the system recognizes the vehicle, associates it with a previously generated credential, and bills the driver or credits it to a permit, often through a smartphone.

“Modern PARCS equipment offers simple and seamless entry and exiting to and from airport parking facilities,” said Michael Flanagan, vice president of Sentry Control Systems, a leading provider of parking technology. “Frictionless parking, in particular, offers travelers an effortless and incredibly quick and convenient parking experience.”

According to Flanagan the convenience offered by modern PARCS equipment can offer on-airport facilities a competitive edge over less costly satellite lots. And for travelers who already choose airport parking over satellite lots, frictionless parking can help migrate parkers from a transactional and anonymous relationship to pre-registered customer relationship. In essence, the registration around which frictionless parking is built fosters a connection between the traveler and the airport’s parking facilities, and helps to promote repeat parking business from that traveler.

“Travel can be a hassle, and airports are constantly on the lookout to find ways to make travel more convenient,” said Flanagan. “Modern PARCS equipment can go a long way towards taking the hassle out of parking at the airport.”

Parking Guidance

Parking guidance systems (PGS) represent another technology that’s gaining popularity at American airports. In recent years, systems have been installed in airports across the United States, including at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport and John Wayne Airport outside of Los Angeles. PGS utilizes sensors to monitor whether a parking space is occupied or free, and the status of each space is indicated through a series of highly visible lights. If the light is green the space is available, if it’s red it’s occupied. Other lights can be used to indicate HP, short-term, or other types of parking.

Parking guidance is particularly beneficial in airport parking because it can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes for a traveler to find an available parking space close to the proper terminal. For travelers who are running late to make a flight, saving five or ten minutes by not having to circle driving lanes looking for an open space can mean the difference between making a flight and having to re-book.

“Airports are starting to turn to Parking guidance because of the incredible customer service advantages a PGS system can offer,” said Dale Fowler, director of INDECT USA, a leading provider of parking guidance systems. “By guiding drivers directly to available spaces, they eliminate the need for drivers to search for a parking space, which makes parking much more convenient and safer.”

Fowler points out that parking guidance systems also offer important benefits to airport parking administrators. By leading drivers directly to open spaces, they help minimize congestion in driving lanes, thus improving safety and reducing the legal liability that can result from accidents. PGS also makes it more likely that drivers will find an available space before giving up and looking for parking elsewhere, which can increase space utilization by 10 to 15 percent. This can mean thousands of dollars in increased parking revenues every day.

“It is well known in the industry that large parking structures are effectively full at 85 percent capacity” said Fowler. “The PGS will allow the garage to fill to capacity, thereby providing up to 15% more spaces to the airport. The deferred capital costs to build these spaces is enormous and far outweighs the cost of the system”.

Finally, PGS systems also provide important administrative benefits. For instance, they collect utilization data that can be used by airport planners to make more informed parking management decisions. In addition to helping airports better manage their parking assets, the data can also help administrators avoid making unnecessary capital expenditures.

Parking Reservation Systems

While parking reservations technology can be found in many airports in Europe and Canada, it is just now gaining traction in the United States. Few things are as frustrating for travelers as rushing to a parking garage located adjacent to the terminal they need to get to, only to find that the garage is full. When this happens the traveler has to waste valuable minutes looking for another garage that does have open spaces. Airports can eliminate this source of frustration by offering flyers parking reservations technology.

Parking reservations technology allows travelers to reserve a parking space close to their terminal before they even leave the house. Using a desktop or handheld device, the traveler merely logs onto the system, selects a parking space, and pays for that space. He or she then drives to the airport, proceeding into the reserved space, and then heads to the gate. Some systems even include signage above spaces that display the name of the person who reserved it.

“Parking reservations solutions provide a wonderful customer experience by allowing travelers to select and pay for their parking before they even head to the airport,” said Theresa Hughes, Chief Executive Officer of Chauntry, a leading provider of reservations technology. “This eliminates the uncertainty of whether there will be parking available near their terminal and removes the hassle of using pay machines or waiting in payment queues.”

Some reservations systems also offer loyalty programs through which airports can allow customers to earn points whenever they park in an airport parking facility. Those points can be redeemed by customers for parking discounts or other rewards, and the more frequently drivers utilize a particular parking facility, the more rewards they earn.

“Airports rely on their parking facilities to generate revenue, but they often face stiff competition from discount satellite lots,” said Hughes. “Reservations loyalty programs can help airports build the brand loyalty they need to attract parkers who may otherwise use competing lots, while at the same time generating repeat business.”


Software is also an important element of the parking technology story. Obviously, all of these new technologies need software to operate properly, but recent years have also seen the introduction of third-party software packages designed to help airport parking administrators get the most out of all of their parking tools.

According to Gorm Tuxen, president and CEO of IPsens, a prominent parking software management and services company, airports that rely heavily on parking technology should consider utilizing maintenance monitoring software. The software is designed monitor parking equipment, such as parking sensors, to monitor performance efficiencies and warn administrators when a piece of equipment isn’t operating properly. Maintenance monitoring software allows streamlining of the preventative system maintenance procedures, allowing problems to be fixed remotely in many cases before dispatching expensive field service personnel. It also provides on-going history of the performance of the hardware over time.

“As essential as technology is to our lives, equipment does break down,” said Tuxen. “Maintenance monitoring software is like having a crystal ball. It automatically tells you when you have a problem because it’s constantly monitoring the performance of all of the airports parking technology.”

According to Tuxen, the parking industry is also on the cusp of an impending trend that will provide important benefits to airports: the use of open source software to manage parking technologies and systems. Traditionally, when airports have purchased parking equipment, they have been at the mercy of the software that comes with it. Often they find that the equipment and software design parameters are strictly focused on stand-alone parts of parking operations and not so much on integrating data from different parking hardware manufactures or making data an integral part of overall airport management systems such as security, congestion management, and high level airport resource management platforms. It’s an issue that is common across industries: companies that are great at developing hardware and software for a narrow niche often lack the ability to create tools that can easily share data platforms.

That’s why open source parking technology will be so exciting. With open source technology, equipment providers allow third-party software providers and developers to offer software that will make their data work better as an integral part of their overall operations IT design and operations management.

“Airport parking departments won’t be constrained any longer by software that was designed to manage ‘just parking operations’ ” said Tuxen, “With open sourcing everyone wins: airports get better data and the ability to monitor equipment performance; equipment providers benefit because their tools work better; and airport enterprise operations also obviously win.”

Exciting Times

These are exciting times for parking administrators. Technology has transformed the airport parking experience, and with the constant pace of innovation we can expect even more exciting advancements in the not-too-distant future.

Bill Smith is a public relations consultant serving the parking industry, as well as a contributing editor to Parking Professional magazine. He can be reached at [email protected].

About the Author

Bill Smith | Founder

Related Content

Indect USA
indect logo indectpage 5a6f7487e3d56
Sentry Control Systems
Sentry control systems logo 5a6f7393053b1
chantry 59b984ecc71f4