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How many people use my parking lot?


Real estate is a valuable resource, especially in dense areas like cities and busy places like airports and shopping centers. Facility managers need oversight of their assets. They need to know how many people are using their real estate, especially when the manager is physically distant from the parking area (for example a shopping center chain facility manager). They want to know:

  • How much of my parking lot capacity is being used?
  • How often is my parking lot being used?


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Why should I care how many people use my parking lot?


Let’s take a look at a city case in the US:

The average central business district of an American city includes an inventory of over 4,000 on- and off-street parking spaces. The target area for integration of vehicle detection sensors encompasses a downtown district of approximately 400 spaces in the region’s most active areas. Cities experience consistent growth on average, in turn generating a progressively higher number of parking spaces.

One of a city’s primary goals is to provide the infrastructure needed for continued growth and development. Parking is an essential component of a region’s successful development, providing the infrastructure necessary to accommodate visitors and residents patronizing local businesses. Parking is the first and last experience people have when visiting a destination and may impact the likelihood they return. Communities throughout the US have identified curb management strategies as essential to supporting the successful growth and operation of their communities, particularly when it comes to parking and transportation activities.

Some cities do not currently enforce parking time limits or charge for parking. Obtaining data through the integration of effective curb management strategies provides the information needed: to make necessary changes or updates to current parking enforcement practices; to continue to support community growth; and to effectively serve residents, visitors and local businesses.

How can I measure how many people use my parking lots?


Existing infrastructure determines the best approach to figuring out how many drivers use a given parking area:


No infrastructure

If there is no infrastructure, the only way to measure drivers is to manually count the number of cars coming in every day. This can be done by hand on a simple notepad, by proxy (for example counting the number of parking tickets sold), or by tracking parking revenues (assuming there are no violations)… But no matter which approach you use, it will require human presence in the parking area.


Heavy infrastructure at the entrance

If you have heavy hardware infrastructure installed, for example barriers, there are usually counters installed as well. Whenever a vehicle enters or exits the parking area, a counter increases (or decreases) your total visitor count. Unfortunately counters are known to make mistakes, especially over multiple days and extended time periods.


Light infrastructure at the entrance

If you have lighter hardware infrastructure installed, facility managers usually rely on infrared or mechanical pressure counters. Unfortunately these ground-based systems average at least one mistake every 100 vehicles, and require at the very least a manual recount and reset at the end of each day.


Heavy infrastructure at each parking space

For the past fifteen years most facility managers have relied on infrared curtains or magnetic ground sensors. Both are connected to a central software (IoT) and can display individual or aggregated parking occupancy data on a dashboard or on a map. This is a widespread technology, but one that has a number of drawbacks, including: initial price (CapEx); operational costs (ground-drilling to replace batteries at least once every five years on average); weak accuracy in adverse weather (snow, heavy rain, sandstorms, etc.).


Light infrastructure in the parking area

Over the past five years new technologies have come to market that provide facility managers with reliable data. These include:

  1. Optical sensors. These are another name for “cameras with embedded vehicle detection software”. They are calibrated in the factory, then installed onsite. They detect parked vehicles and send real-time information to parking managers for both individual and aggregated parking spaces. This technology works well when everything goes according to plan, but they have high purchase costs and weak accuracy in adverse weather conditions. When there is snow on the ground, for example, optical sensors struggle to recognize vehicles parked outside individual parking spot lines.
  2. Camera-based solutions. These software solutions can use any camera (video-surveillance, CCTV, webcams, standard cameras, etc.) to analyze parking spots and provide real-time information on parking occupancy, sending pictures or video to a server for analysis. The AI (Artificial Intelligence) software installed on these servers can be dynamically trained to provide accurate results even in adverse weather conditions. For example when there is snow on the ground, the AI software can be trained to recognize and adjust for snowy conditions, guaranteeing optimal results. Some companies even provide fully transparent results, allowing facility managers to compare and verify the results whenever it’s convenient for them to do so.


When people are interested in a robust solution that provides accurate, reliable results, camera-based solutions are simply the best option, letting parking facility managers know how many people are using their parking areas in real-time.

Automatic real-time alerts when the parking area is nearly full


Some smart parking solution providers offer additional features. For example, facility managers can receive automatic alerts:

  • when a specific parking area within the parking lot is empty;
  • when a specific parking area within the parking lot is full (e.g. the parking zone closest to an airport terminal);
  • when a specific parking area within the parking lot is 70% occupied (or 50%, or 90%...the facility manager sets the desired threshold).

This information has multiple uses. For example:

  • If a parking manager knows in real-time that one of her parking zones is full, she can automatically change the on-site dynamic guidance panels to direct drivers to other, less occupied areas. This avoids unnecessary congestion and helps provide a better, more relaxing customer experience.
  • If a parking manager receives structured analytics on the occupancy of his parking lot, he can better optimize his real estate assets. If, for example, he is aware that a dedicated parking area is seldom used, he can decide to convert the property for commercial use and create a retailing mix.

Learn more about how facility managers use camera-based solutions to measure parking lot usage and optimize their real estate


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