Parking guidance system lights the way in Lake Street Garage

Sady Swanson

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The University garage located on Lake Street now has sensor lights in each parking space demonstrating if that space is available or not for parking.
The University garage located on Lake Street now has sensor lights in each parking space demonstrating if that space is available or not for parking.

Lake Street Garage users will now have lights guiding them to open parking spots, and will be able to check whether or not spots are available before entering the garage.

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“So, what we’ve installed is a single-space parking guidance system,” Indect Project Engineer Stephen Evans said.

The $260,000 parking guidance system allows users to see how many of the 838 spots in the garage are available and where they are in the garage.

Each parking spot is equipped with an ultrasonic sensor and an LED light indicator above the spaces. The light is red if the parking spot is taken, green if it is free, blue for handicap spaces and pink or purple above the electric car charging stations, according to Evans.

“The ultrasonic sensors are mounted up to 18 feet high, which is the tallest ultrasonic installation in the world,” Evans said. “This is also the first university, in fact, I think it’s the first installation in the state of Colorado as well.”

The sensors emit an ultrasonic signal four times per second from the ceiling to the floor. The sensor listens for an echo, according to Evans.

“If something breaks that beam for a certain amount of time, we recognize that as a stationary object and we calculate that as an occupied parking space,” Evans said. “It’s like sonar on a submarine.”

Evans works for Indect, an Austria-based company that manufactures the parking guidance systems. Associate Director for Parking and Transportation at CSU Doug Mayhew said this company was the suggested vendor for this project through the state bid process.

“If you park under space, within two to three seconds we know you’re parked there and we can display it on a map in real time,” Evans said.

The University garage located on Lake Street now has sensor lights in each parking space demonstrating if that space is available or not for parking, and a screen in the entrance showing how many available parking spaces are in the building in each level.
The University garage located on Lake Street now has sensor lights in each parking space demonstrating if that space is available or not for parking, and a screen in the entrance showing how many available parking spaces are in the building in each level.

With this update to the garage, there is a digital display outside the entrances that show exactly how many available parking spots are on each level. The information gathered by the sensors is also sent to that display, so it will show the available parking spots in real-time. When a level is full, the screen will display that.

“As soon as a space is occupied, it’ll say ‘full’ and as soon as somebody backs out of a space it’ll say ‘1’,” Evans said.

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Because there are spots on the roof and there is nowhere to mount lights, the fourth level of the garage is equipped with a traffic counting device that just counts the number of cars entering and existing at that level.

“Instead of measuring intermittently, it is constantly on, so anything that goes under it, it detects it immediately,” Evans said. “We have six sensors up there in series, so we know the direction the car is going by the order in which the sensors activate.”

Evans said they are working on developing an app which would make information like which spots are available in which lots available to the public. The app would, hopefully, allow users to select the building they are going to and be shown available parking nearest their destination. There is no timeframe in which the app should be expected to be available.

This technology will be built into the South College Parking Garage once that is built, and they are also working on ways to implement this into surface lots on campus.

“We’re looking to see how we can incorporate this in some of those surface lots,” Mayhew said. “It’d be a totally different type of technology, but we’re looking to see (if) we can get… that information out to our customers, so they can just go directly, that’s the goal.”

Along with information on how many spots are available, the sensors also retrieve data on how long a space was occupied for, how many times a spot was parked in, and what time period most spots are occupied.

“This will help us understand how often those spaces are turning over, which means we’re serving more people,” Alternative Transportation Manager Aaron Fodge said.

Evans said, from the current data, a parking spot in the garage turns over an average 2.5 times per day, which means the garage is servicing between 2,000 and 2,400 cars.

One way Parking and Transportation Services plans to use this information is to determine if the number of spots allotted for each permit type is satisfying the needs of students and faculty. Currently, the first floor of the garage is pay-to-park, the second level is faculty parking and the third and fourth levels are student commuter parking.

“Maybe we’ve preserved too many spaces for one permit type that we want to free up for someone else and this is helping to justify that,” Fodge said.

Because this system tells users whether or not spots are available on each level, it eliminates the need to drive around to check for spots, which saves time and reduces emissions.

“We want to get the information out to our customers as to where they can park to eliminate that driving around, searching,” Mayhew said.

Collegian Breaking News Reporter Sady Swanson can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter at @sadyswan.