PARKING/Automation boosts revenue in Birmingham
The Birmingham (Ala.) Parking Authority (BPA) has made structural improvements to its lots and decks and has upgraded the technology that helps manage them. The changes are helping the agency generate revenues, which it will apply to more capital improvements.
The BPA is responsible for eight multi-tiered deck garages and two surface lots, which comprise nearly 10,000 spaces and about 50 lanes. The agency used to rely on plain paper ticket “spitters” and bar coded swipe cards to account for cars entering facilities. The spitters stamped entry time, date and lane on tickets. Parkers then gave their tickets to operators at exit booths for manual fee calculation. At days’ end, the booth operators tallied the tickets and manually delivered them, usually weekly, to a central location for another tally operation.
A few years ago, the BPA was growing frustrated over growing problems with old equipment. Repair and replacement parts were scarce, and some outdated equipment was no longer made. Phil Gary was appointed executive director of the BPA and was charged with overhauling and upgrading the city’s parking facilities.
In January 2001, the BPA resurfaced lots and decks, and enhanced and renewed elevator equipment. Next, the agency worked with local consultants Gorrie-Regan & Associates to integrate facility management software (by Minneapolis-based McGann Software Systems) with new ticket dispensers, gates and fee computers (by Roseland, N.J.-based Amano Cincinnati).
The BPA eliminated swipe cards and replaced them with proximity readers. Additionally, new ticket dispensers, which can display custom greetings for special events, were installed at entrance gates. Fee computers — which accept cash, credit cards, checks, decrement cards and store discount tickets — were added at exit booths.
The new facility management software allows BPA staff members to review all operations at their central office, gathering information about individual decks and surface lots overnight and remotely, instead of individually at each location. Additionally, any equipment programming changes can be made remotely from the BPA central facility, saving time and money.
“Looking back, I can’t help wondering how we managed,” Gary says. “These fee computers do a lot more, including controlling our barrier gates, tracking tickets, printing customized receipts and offering a comprehensive range of reports at our central facility, on demand. This is a big improvement for our customers and for us — eliminating operator miscalculations and theft. Revenues increased almost from the start.”
For monthly contract customers, the proximity card access readers make parking convenient. Customers need only one card to access municipal parking facilities, instead of several. “Right now, the city has approximately 75 percent of its available space under contract for monthly parking,” Gary says. “That’s a big plus adding to our revenue stream.”
The BPA charges contract parkers between $50 and $60 per month. Daily rates max out at around $4. Since the facilities and equipment upgrade, the BPA has generated enough parking revenue to make the authority self-sustaining, paying for all overhead, operation, labor and maintenance costs with a $2.5 million profit balance.
The city has long-range plans to expand two garages at a cost of approximately $17.5 million. The expansions will be funded by revenue from BPA operations.