In spring 2023, the operators of the Söllereckbahn in Oberstdorf had the parking area of the mountain railroad, which is open almost all year round, digitized during the off-season. In this blog article, you can learn first-hand from Henrik Volpert, CEO of Oberstdorf Kleinwalsertal Bergbahnen, about the challenges the company previously faced with its parking area and how the Peter Park system solution has ensured greater efficiency and customer satisfaction.
The Söllereckbahn in Oberstdorf operates almost 365 days a year and takes its visitors up to an altitude of 1,400 meters. In April 2023, the operating company Oberstdorf Kleinwalsertal Bergbahnen used the off-season to digitize a parking area with 700 parking spaces at the Söllereckbahn with the smart parking solution from Peter Park as part of the expansion of the Söllereck as an all-season and family mountain. Modern license plate recognition has been recording all parking transactions there ever since.
Read the following article to find out what challenges the operators of the Söllereckbahn previously faced with the management and control of the parking area. Henrik Volpert, CEO of Oberstdorf Kleinwalsertal Bergbahnen, also provides insights into the progress that has taken place since the implementation of the project and how this has impacted not only the operating company itself, but also visitors to the leisure facility.
Before the switch to the barrier-free parking solution from Peter Park was made in the parking lot of the Söllereckbahn, the area was conventionally managed and controlled with a ticket vending machine, which presented challenges such as long waiting times in front of vending machines and delayed occupancy of the parking area for both operators and parkers, especially at peak times. At the same time, especially during the winter season, problems of a technical nature such as difficulties with the implementation of different price structures repeatedly arose, which moved Oberstdorf Kleinwalsertal Bergbahnen to install the camera-based system solution on the parking area of the Söllereckbahn as a pilot project.
Before the gondolas bring the first guests to the summit in the morning or adventure-seekers take their first rides on the Allgäu Coaster, the parking area with its 700 parking spaces is already filling up. In addition to the customers of the leisure company and its outlets, the parking area of the Söllereckbahn also attracts hikers and excursionists who park their vehicles there in the early morning hours. The high frequency not only challenged the operators with the conventional system used until spring 2023, but also led to inconvenient delays for visitors.
"There was a column where guests drew their ticket and controllers who checked whether all parkers had solved one. The user interfaces of the systems used either reacted too slowly to cope with the rush in the morning or were not intuitive to use. In addition to well-functioning hardware, the user-friendliness of the software is also an important criterion for us in order to enable fast processing times at the parking area," says Henrik Volpert about the challenges that existed before the digital parking solution was implemented.
Winter sports enthusiasts, hikers and families: as diverse as the range of activities offered by Söllereck is, so are its visitors who drive to the leisure facility in the Allgäu region throughout the year. But not all parkers have to pay the same fee for the duration of their stay - for example, winter sports enthusiasts receive a discount on their parking fee if they hold a ski ticket. With the previous system, however, this process could not be implemented satisfactorily, as Henrik Volpert describes:
"The conventional systems also had difficulties with the implementation of the various price structures, for example when it came to recognizing a ski ticket in order to grant a discount to the winter sports enthusiast who was parking. This did not work reliably or took too long, resulting in delays at the parking area, for example. This was not only frustrating for guests, but also for us as operators, as we rely on systems to function smoothly."
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Especially during the peak winter season, when temperatures drop below freezing, conventional barrier systems often experience technical difficulties that lead to failures. If the barriers do not work, the parking area cannot be controlled and managed accordingly, as parkers can simply drive in and out again. Due to the loss of parking fees, mountain railway companies lose revenue and also incur high expenses for the maintenance and repair of the barriers. The use of a barrier system in the parking area of the Söllereckbahn was out of the question for Henrik Volpert, however, primarily because of the time required to open and close the barrier for each individual vehicle:
"We had to find a technically reliable solution: We are an outdoor business and are open almost 365 days a year. Accordingly, the system must also function reliably in winter. At the same time, the processing time per vehicle must be as fast as possible, which unfortunately always leads to problems with our gated parking lots, especially during busy periods."
Mountain railroads are classic leisure businesses that are an attractive destination for their visitors all year round and want to offer them a pleasant visitor experience. This also includes a smooth parking process, which can be enabled by efficient management of the parking area. At the same time, the operators of the mountain railroads also benefit, as in the case of the Söllereckbahn, because efficient parking management increases the efficiency and profitability of the operations.
An extremely effective method of increasing profitability and customer-friendliness in the management of mountain lift parking is the use of smart, digital parking solutions. These enable access control through automated license plate recognition without the need for weather-sensitive and high-maintenance barrier systems. Henrik Volpert's answers reveal the ways in which parking management systems can support mountain railroads.
By using the camera-based system solution from Peter Park , there is no need to use barriers in the parking area of the Söllereckbahn. Visitors enter and leave the parking area without having to stop. This is particularly advantageous for parkers at peak times in the morning or evening, as there are fewer backups. The seamless parking process at the Söllereckbahn parking lot is rounded off by the payment process at the end of the stay at the user-friendly machines.
"A well-functioning parking management system is necessary to organize the cars. The use of the barrier-free parking system fulfills our goal of minimizing parking search traffic and thus relieving both guests and residents from traffic," says Henrik Volpert.
The digital parking management system from Peter Park enables the integration of different tariff structures, which is particularly attractive for seasonal businesses such as mountain railroads with their different customer groups. The system enables the option of digital discounts for end customers such as winter sports enthusiasts. If they have a ski pass and scan it at the machine, they automatically receive a discount on their parking time.
"As a mountain railway operator, we are a leisure provider and not a parking specialist. It was important for us to find a system that meets our requirements - this also includes the connection of a ticketing system in order to be able to offer our price structure and the discounts integrated with it smoothly and completely. So far, this works very well with the system solution from Peter Park at the Söllereckbahn."
DSGVO-compliant cameras record the license plates of incoming and outgoing vehicles in the parking lot of the Söllereckbahn and make a cost-intensive barrier system obsolete. The weather-independent, digital parking management system thus saves costs that would be incurred for the maintenance, upkeep and repair of barrier systems, while at the same time guaranteeing the required fast turnaround time of vehicles in the parking area. The space can therefore be managed more efficiently, resulting in increased revenue. Another advantage of camera-based license plate recognition is the seamless control of the parking area - personnel who were previously deployed for staff patrols can now devote themselves to more value-adding tasks.
The integration of the Peter Park system on the parking area of the Söllereckbahn during the off-season of operation in spring 2023 was absolutely satisfactory for the operators of the Oberstdorf Kleinwalsertal Bergbahnen, as Henrik Volpert reports:
"Our requirement for Peter Park as a partner was that we have close and good contact if, for example, questions arise. Since we are a seasonal operation, projects would have to be reliably implemented and completed on time. If the ski season starts on a deadline in mid-December, then the parking management system must also function smoothly at that time. These requirements were met by Peter Park and the cooperation worked very well right from the start."
In the parking area of the Söllereckbahn, the pillars previously used to pull tickets were uninstalled and replaced by vending machines from Peter Park ; in addition, new cameras were installed to record license plate numbers. When entering and exiting the parking lot, signs will inform drivers about the barrier-free parking process, and additional signs on the parking area next to the ticket machines will provide additional information and explain the procedure step by step.
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Henrik Volpert, CEO of Oberstdorf Kleinwalsertal Bergbahnen, is satisfied with the decision to implement the barrier-free system from Peter Park as a pilot project at the Söllereckbahn parking lot in spring 2023. For him, digital parking management systems for mountain railway operators are trend-setting:
"In the mountain railroad industry, the trend from offering free parking to managing parking spaces is becoming more and more prevalent. Against this background, my appeal to other mountain lift operators would be to be brave and introduce digital solutions directly. They are inexpensive to purchase, are well received by guests, and prices can be one hundred percent enforced with them. We were skeptical at first whether license plate recognition would be accepted enough in Germany and whether it would also work in winter - but our experience with the Peter Park system after three months is thoroughly positive: the system is the right choice for us and, in my opinion, very well suited to the mountain lift industry."
Copyright header image © Oberstdorf Kleinwalsertal Bergbahnen
In April 2023, the parking area of the Söllereckbahn was digitalized with the smart parking system from Peter Park . Since then, operators and visitors to the leisure facility have benefited from the barrier-free system through seamless parking processes, reduced waiting times and ticketless payment.
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