T3 Webinar Question and Answer Transcript

Is that Spot Taken?: Real-Time Transit Parking Information Helps Manage Corridors (October 21, 2008)

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Q. Is there a possibility that either WMATA or Ride On will implement an express bus service to help increase the use of the Norbeck lot?
A.  Mike Kinney: I guess I'll answer that, since it's a Montgomery County question. The ridership numbers from that lot so far haven't pointed them in a direction that would cause them to consider that, as I understand it. There was talk about increasing the frequency of service into the Norbeck Park-N-Ride to try to improve its utilization, but it's been tried a couple of times and it's never made any change into it. Now that could be a publicity issue, people not knowing that the service is changing. But as of now there's no consideration for express bus service.
Q. As part of a similar project now in design in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin, input and participation from parking facilities have been very helpful. Can you elaborate on why you are unable to install equipment on the garage property?
A. Mike Kinney: I'll answer that one, too. There was a question before that I think you missed, but I'll do that one after this one. We worked with the WMATA folks early on in our project actually trying to incorporate our grant project with the grant project that they were trying to get off the ground. Ultimately, they weren't ready to move forward and we were, so we moved forward without them. In trying to work with that group of people and get some buy-in in what we were doing, we had difficulties reaching agreement. They ultimately dropped out of the project, not concerned with what we were doing, but we tried to approach the people and get permission to get onto their property to do some of the work we needed to do, or to share their equipment, which was not in use. The loop detectors in their entrances are unused. There used to be "Lot Full" signs that are no longer in service. The detectors are still there for them, but they didn't want to give up access to those detectors, even with assurances that I'd give them back if they ever needed them again. Bureaucracy being what it is, we couldn't get the right people in the organization to say yes to giving us permission to get on the property, so we had to proceed without that and come up with an alternative solution.
Q. What is your current outreach campaign to use the Norbeck lot?
A. Mike Kinney: With the Norbeck lot, there was an outreach campaign before we implemented this project. We did public service announcement messages on our county government channel, as I mentioned, we produce in our transportation management center. We had presentations that went out, interspersed with our traffic information, that pointed out the existence of the Park-N-Ride lot and the upcoming project, to try to get people directed to there. There were press releases issued before and during the first implementation of the parking management project. Since then, there hasn't been anything else done.
Q. How important is it to maintain the sensitive user confidence in the accuracy of the parking guidance system's information? Specifically in trying to assess how much should be invested in features? For example: raised curb medians, delineators, directional detection, to maintain accurate counts covering all traffic movement scenarios, such as simultaneous two-way traffic at single driveways?
A. Tumbali: I'll give Mike a break. It's very important, I think. First and foremost, actually, is user confidence with the system. I think also the fact that we want to leverage this information to other ITS systems, whether it's integrated corridor management or simply trip planning for transit. It is very important. I can't say more. No information is probably better than wrong information in this kind of sense. As far as trying to assess how much should be invested, I guess that's on a case-by-case basis. In our case here in Chicago we use relatively inexpensive plastic delineators to ensure that they follow the correct pathing. In a sense that it would impact your accuracy in counts, you'll have to make the proper investment that you could.
Q. As a Montgomery County resident, like Chicago, will there be a Glenmont PVMS on the upcoming inter-county connector?
A. Mike Kinney: I don't know the answer to that question. There's not going to be anything pointing directly to Glenmont that I'm aware of. The inter-county connector—I'm sure most people don't know what that is—it's a relatively controversial controlled access freeway that's started under construction. It's a multi-billion dollar job that's been on the planning books for 40 or 50 years. It's finally gotten under construction somehow. That freeway is going to be operated by the State of Maryland, the Maryland Transportation Authority as a toll road. I'm not aware of any plans to put any signing features to point people off of that road and into transit. I don't know how that relates to a toll agency's mission to try to push people off their road, but I'm not aware of anything that's planned there.
Q. Are people paying to park? If so, can they do so with their fare card, for example, swipe contactless?
A. Gerry Tumbali: In Chicago, people do pay to park, as Jennifer mentioned. It's $1.00 per parking space. It's basically cash fare.
A. Mike Kinney: In Montgomery County, most of the Metro station lots they do pay to park. It's a little more expensive—I believe it's $4.00 a day. I believe at all the stations now you have to use a SmartTrip card—swipe it to pay. It used to be you could pay with cash, but I don't believe you can do that anymore. I'm sorry, I just realized I should have elaborated a little. I mentioned in my presentation that there were several classes of spaces. The regular non-reserved spaces are $4.00 a day. They can also purchase a monthly pass for reserved spaces, which you have to have a display tag to park in. Those are reserved until 10:00 a.m., so people can reserve a space and hope that they get one when they get there. Regular commuters can't park in those spaces. I don't know an exact cost of that, but it's relatively expensive compared to the $4.00 a day, and they're still responsible for the $4.00 a day parking fee in addition to their pass.
Q. Will either Montgomery County or Chicago use text message alerts for parking information?
A. Gerry Tumbali: In Chicago we do want to incorporate the information within our trip planning and also within our alert services in our upcoming website. Because the parking management right now is currently a demo project, we're not incorporating that at this time.
A. Mike Kinney: That will be the same for our Montgomery County project. This is one parking garage out of many, many, many parking garages just in Montgomery County, let alone the Washington, D.C. region. Text messaging or RSS feeds or whatever you want to call it, that's a great direction to take something like this, but until we've got the infrastructure built to provide more information system-wide, it's going to be of limited use to the general public. If you're a Glenmont garage parker, then it makes sense to you, but for everybody else, they're going to want to ignore it.
Q. What were the costs of these two systems?
A. Mike Kinney: For Montgomery County, I believe the grant, and Charlene, you might have to correct me—I believe the grant was about $330,000. After the Montgomery County match, it was a little over $400,000.
A. Charlene Wilder: You're close. It was $333,000. Right on.
A. Mike Kinney: Very good
A. Gerry Tumbali: For us in Chicago, counting from the beginning of the project to implementation, it would probably be over $2 million.
Q. Is security integrated into the systems?
A. Mike Kinney: I don't know. I'm not quite sure what direction that question is going in. If you're talking about security of the system itself, the system we developed is secure in that it's on a private data network. The computer itself is on our county government computer network that's behind firewalls and all that sort of thing. Site security itself, at the Glenmont garage and the Norbeck garage-there is no aspect of our project that involves facility security at those places.
A. Gerry Tumbali: I'll echo Mike's comments on both the network security as well as on the physical security here in Chicago.
Q. How much is the annual operating cost [for both systems]?
A. Gerry Tumbali: We don't have the actual figure here in Chicago for the annual operating cost, but it's pretty minimal. Also, we actually have one of our engineers that lives around there that can do visual checks, so that saves us quite a bit. Mainly the operating costs are within just the electricity associated with operating the signs and the components. We're using free band for the communications and existing telephone communications that were already in place. That saves us our communication costs.
A. Mike Kinney: On the Montgomery County side, the signs we use are solar powered, so the only cost there would be ongoing maintenance and that's a minimal amount of money. The signs themselves use cell phones for communication. The annual cost for my cell service on those is about $200 a month times 12, so do the math. The only other component that has any cost associated is one desktop PC that's connected into our data network, along with three traffic signal controllers that are also computers out at the location that are dealing with the video detectors. All in all annual cost—a ballpark number—I'd say it's $4,000 to $5,000.
Q. What do you plan to do for the future with fare cards for your systems?
A. Gerry Tumbali: In Chicago, we do plan to integrate that as soon as we come up with our universal fare card here in the region to incorporate some of these payment requirements as well.
A. Mike Kinney: I don't know that the fare card issue really plays into the system we built here. That's kind of a separate network from what we're actually working on in this little system.

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