Parking Services & Efficiency Upgrades Drive Customer Satisfaction At Ontario International Airport
PCI conducted an audit and later implemented enhancements to shuttle operations, parking configurations, and PARCS that changed the experience for travelers and employees. For many travelers, parking is the first and last part of their experience at an airport. Improvements to the parking experience can increase overall satisfaction for travelers and demonstrate the value of parking to the airport. These upgrades can also be crucial to accommodate any anticipated airport expansion in the future. Such changes may relate to shuttle efficiency, whether a parking facility redesign is in order, and what role a new PARCS system can play.
Improve Shuttle Efficiency
Shuttles are often a key part of airport operations, and some outside-the-box thinking can greatly improve their efficiency — which often results in more satisfied flyers and employees. You may be able to improve shuttle service by using larger shuttles to accommodate additional passengers or more shuttles at peak times. Also consider whether it’s possible to improve route efficiency. Don’t limit these considerations to existing roadways; think in new ways and look at whether it’s possible to build a new road connection. Doing so may be well worth the effort, even with the planning, design, approval, permits, and construction required to build a new roadway. For instance, Ontario International Airport (ONT) in Ontario, California, had a parking shuttle route that required buses to exit the airport campus and drive more than a mile on a public street. Parking Concepts, Inc. (PCI) worked with the Ontario International Airport Authority (OIAA) on a new route that includes a road through what was an unused area of only dirt and stone. The new route stays on the airport campus, avoids four traffic lights, and allows the shuttles to operate more quickly.
“Improvements in parking efficiency and travelers’ parking experiences can play an important role in an airport’s growth.” – John Groden
Reconfigure Lot Space
Parking lot reconfigurations can add spaces, improve the traveler experience, and allow airports to plan for future growth. Newer PARCS can free up space in existing lots with the elimination of large payment terminals or cashier exit stations. Also, the removal of islands in existing lots makes room for additional spaces. At Ontario International, for example, plans call for a gain of 246 spaces in a single economy parking lot when islands are removed. If feasible, combine existing lots into a single, larger lot to open up more spaces.
Simplify Parking Options
Travelers often find airport parking lots and garages confusing and difficult to navigate. Both customer experience and overall vehicle traffic flow can improve with parking lot entry that is self-explanatory and easy for drivers to follow. Use wayfinding within the lot to direct travelers to parking closer to their desired terminal. When it comes to exits, fewer transient exit plazas can also improve traffic flow and increase the number of parking stalls. Cashless PARCS systems can enable faster vehicle flow, even with fewer exits. If travelers and employees use the same parking lots, separate employee exit lanes at other locations will also smooth traffic flow. Parking areas with nested lots that charge higher rates are another cause of traveler confusion. The removal of nesting areas may make lots easier to navigate and increase the number of parking stalls. A single parking rate can also simplify the customer experience and increase profitability. To determine this rate, compare your premium rate and your general parking and choose an appropriate rate in between. Conduct a thorough rate analysis to determine if this is the best course of action for a specific location.
Offer Flexible Booking
The option to prebook and prepay for parking will also improve traffic flow and enhance the customer experience. A customer can then simply scan their paper or electronic reservation to enter or exit the parking facility. The ease of this process can be taken further if LPR precapture technology is incorporated. Depending on the PARCS and LPR systems, the parker may not even have to come to a complete stop when entering or exiting the parking facility.
Review PARCS Features
The right PARCS is an important component of a better and more efficient airport parking system, so it’s worth taking the time to fully research options. Consider customer experience, airport needs, configuration options, and maintenance requirements when choosing a PARCS. Sometimes these requirements can come together in surprising ways. For example, ONT plans to adopt a barcode ticketing system, in part because of its climate. It currently uses a magnetic-strip ticketing system, but the region’s dry weather and high winds often lead to sand and dirt in ticket ingestors. Barcode scanners don’t need to ingest tickets, so they should require less sand- and dirt-related maintenance.
- Barcodes: Exit systems that scan barcodes on tickets and/or phones eliminate the need for kiosks to ingest tickets; less ingestion can lead to less maintenance.
- Cloud-based solutions: The use of cloud-based solutions, which can be updated remotely, means no more on-premise servers and reduced downtime.
- Reservation prebooking: Prebooking spaces is increasingly popular with travelers and can improve traffic flow at parking entrances and exits.
- Integrations: It’s generally advantageous to opt for a PARCS that can integrate with existing systems or other planned system upgrades.
- LPR: LPR facilitates faster parking entry and exit, especially for airport employees and customers with prebooked reservations; it can also improve revenue accounting.
- Local maintenance services: Dependable, proven local maintenance is crucial to minimize PARCS downtime.
- Comparable installation: Visit a location with a similar number of lanes and desired technology to see the functionality.
- Reporting: Quality reporting is an important consideration to ensure effective decision making and measurement.
Research Beyond the Proposal
Don’t rely only on proposals or RFP responses to choose a PARCS; visit existing installations of each vendor’s system and see the features you want in action. Speak with other airports that use similar systems from the vendors you’re considering. Also speak with other parking operators to understand their experiences with the vendor and features that might be purchased.
Expand Service & Goals
Improvements in the traveler experience can help an airport flourish, and improvements in parking efficiency will accommodate the growth that results. Ontario International has been the fastest-growing U.S. airport for the past four years, as published by Global Traveler USA, and it continues to show one of the stronger recoveries for Southern California airports. Targeted for completion by November 2023, the OIAA’s and PCI’s plan for the airport’s parking services will prepare it for additional travelers, airport employees, and airlines. Ultimately, the plan’s three phases will add nearly 3,000 parking spaces, make parking 100% cashless, update the PARCS, and improve shuttle efficiency. Other airports also see the potential of parking to contribute to expansion and service goals, as well as to improve overall airport operations.
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Visit PCI’s website here: http://parkingconcepts.com
PCI’s LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/parking-concepts-inc./
John Groden, CPP, is Vice President of airports at Parking Concepts, Inc., serving Ontario International Airport. Email him at jgroden@ pciont.com.