Finding a parking spot can be a hassle. The most common issue visitors face when traveling to a large-scale event is the time wasted getting from the last mile (give or take) into a parking space due to traffic and limited parking availability. The thought of navigating crowded city streets in search of parking at a large event can fill potential attendees with dread. This problem is so prevalent that it has its own name, The Last Mile Challenge. This phenomenon exists due to factors such as congestion, inadequate infrastructure, limited mass transit options, proximity to major highways, poor city planning, and payment processes. Such was the case with LoanDepot Park, home of the Miami Marlins before they implemented a Free Flow parking system.
About the Ballpark: Friction Points
LoanDepot Park (formerly Marlins Park) is a retractable roof baseball park in Miami, Florida. The park is home to the Miami Marlins and can accommodate 36,742 fans. The park has hosted numerous large-scale events: MLB All-Star games, international soccer matches, college football games, concerts, and conferences. Recently, the park has also functioned as a COVID-19 testing/vaccination site.
LoanDepot Park has four parking garages and six surface lots for a combined total of 5,600+ parking spaces. Like many venues, LoanDepot Park guests frequently cited parking and traffic as points of frustration. The roadway infrastructure surrounding the park is poorly designed and offers little support. The park is also located within a residential zone and close to a major highway and main streets; this means guests must share the roadways with rush-hour, residential, and all other non-event-related traffic. In addition, Miami’s public mass transit options are limited.
The Marlins organization sought to mitigate traffic at the ballpark to create a more enjoyable experience for event attendees while minimizing carbon emissions from hundreds of vehicles idling while waiting for a parking spot. The COVID-19 pandemic also heightened the need for contactless transactions. With the help of Miller Electric, they found this solution in the form of a Free Flow parking system.
What is Free Flow Parking?
Free-flow parking reduces the need for physical touchpoints regarding vehicle entry and exit in barrier-less or barrier-controlled situations. There is no need to stop or open the window to present a credential; vehicles are automatically identified by ALPR and other technologies when entering or leaving a facility. This process allows for frictionless, touchless identification of vehicles without compromising the security of the parking facility.
The mechanics of free-flow parking are similar to free-flow tolling. The goal is to engineer the parking environment so that traffic flow is not obstructed by gates or barriers and develop a system that monitors parking events, ensuring that vehicles are paid and accounted for. In short, Free-flow parking eliminates barriers and thereby congestion on entry and exit of parking facilities.
The 3 Elements of Free Flow Parking
A client parking application, either a mobile app or a mobile-friendly website, to facilitate transactions.
A system to capture parking events and license plates while tracking and matching payments. Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) is the perfect technology for parking event registration. ALPR instantly reconciles a license plate number with an active permit (guest) or paid parking session.
A system administration platform used by the operator to specify pricing and track guest statistics.
In the case of LoanDepot Park, vehicles are no longer validated at the entrance to parking facilities using payment collection or parking pass scans. Instead, event attendees can register their vehicle’s license plate ahead of time with Arrive or at the venue using the PaybyPhone mobile app or Flowbird Pay Stations located throughout the garages. The Miami Parking Authority uses two or more vehicles with Genetec AutoVu Mobile systems in addition to fixed AutoVu SharpV cameras on the entry and exit lanes of the garages to track the parking activity. Video analytics can confirm additional details like vehicle make and model if a license plate is only partly legible.
The payment vendors synchronize with the Genetec Pay-by-Plate Sync Engine to update those who have paid for parking in near-real-time. That updated information is communicated to the mobile enforcement vehicles to identify violators passing through the garages during the game. A single enforcement tour through the parking facilities mid-way through the event identifies vehicles with unpaid parking sessions, which are then issued a promissory note.
LoanDepot Park can take pride in being the first professional sports facility to adopt free-flow parking at all on-site facilities. This process has simplified operations, and guests have a better experience than ever. The new parking system has also saved stakeholders hundreds of thousands of dollars and boosted revenue by giving patrons more time to buy food, drink, and merchandise while improving compliance. Since implementing the free-flow system at the park, the Marlins organization accomplished all of the following:
- ~$300,000 in yearly labor savings
- Eliminated cash handling
- Increased compliance and parking revenue
- Reduced Last-Mile Ingress time by 75% on average attendance days
- Improved guest feedback to 5 STARS
- COVID Friendly operation
A welcoming arrival experience starts at the gate and determines whether someone will return or not; the first impression is of crucial importance. From the guest’s point of view, free-flow parking offers unmatched convenience of use. For facility owners/managers, the automated processes of free-flow cut operating expenses. It also increases revenue by allowing visitors more time in the facility to spend money on concessions, the convenience of payment, and 24/7 automatic monitoring and enforcement.
Miller Electric is a leading integrator in parking management and ALPR solutions. We have the experience and expertise to integrate hardware, software, and infrastructure from diverse cutting-edge manufacturers. As ALPR-based vehicle registration for parking applications gains popularity, frustrating parking elements like congestion and ticketing can become a thing of the past.