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Replacing a barrier system with a digital parking system

Barrier systems are a common means of choice in parking space management. They have proven their worth over the past decades. However, for reasons of sustainability and cost, it may now be worth switching to a barrier-free system.

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Parking management without barriers

Barriers are a common tool in the administration and management of parking spaces. They have proven their worth over the past decades and most people are familiar with the procedure: take a ticket, enter the parking area, park, pay for your ticket at the pay machine after your stay and insert it into the terminal at the exit. The barrier then opens and the exit is free. So does "never change a running system" apply or is it time for new solutions? Barrier systems are expensive to purchase and operate, they slow down the flow of traffic at entrances and exits and cause tailbacks. There are more efficient solutions, especially for highly frequented parking areas or those with specific peak times. Nevertheless, in a few cases, barriers will still have a right to exist in the future, for example if unauthorized persons are to be prevented from entering a parking area at all costs.

What are the characteristics of restricted parking areas?

The advantage of parking space management in publicly accessible parking areas using barrier systems is that there are practically no non-payers. A paid ticket must be inserted before the barrier opens at the exit. There is no need for staff checks, as is the case in ungated parking areas, where tickets have to be purchased from machines and placed in the vehicle on arrival. This means there are no costs for staff to check the parking tickets and manual tracking of non-payers is also not necessary. If you want to cheat the parking fee in a parking lot with barriers, you have to have a certain amount of audacity and try to drive out directly behind another vehicle before the barrier can close. For safety reasons, barrier systems may be equipped with a light barrier to protect the area under the barrier to prevent injuries. Parking fine bouncers can take advantage of this safety feature.

However, a barrier system poses challenges for honest parkers. First of all, they have to drive close enough to the ticket terminal at the entrance to be able to take a parking ticket. They may even have to press a button first. This can be a considerable problem for people with limited mobility, but for everyone else it is inconvenient to say the least. Afterwards, it is important not to lose the ticket under any circumstances, as this usually results in a high daily charge. The next difficulty lurks at the exit: which way round does the parking ticket have to be inserted into the slot? If the barrier is open, you have to drive out quickly before it closes again!

What is unpleasant for parkers in turn poses its own challenges for parking lot operators, for which they must find and provide solutions: Who can parkers turn to if they have lost their parking ticket? If the exit barrier is defective, who will open it at short notice so that visitors can leave the parking area again? If someone drives into the barrier or the ticket terminal, who repairs it and who pays for it? Who pays for the lost revenue? Parking lot operators need to ask themselves all these questions before implementing a parking management system based on a barrier system.

Are barrier systems still up to date today?

Against this background, the question arises as to whether barrier systems in parking space management are still up to date today. In addition to user-friendliness, costs, personnel costs and sustainability also play a role. 

As described above, barriers place considerable demands on parkers. Particularly in parking areas that are highly frequented or that many visitors want to enter or leave at the same time during peak times, barrier systems create additional obstacles. The barriers must rise in front of each vehicle and lower again behind it. Depending on the system, this alone often takes more than ten seconds. Added to this is the time required to pull or push in the ticket. This quickly creates a backlog. This can often be seen on Saturdays in shopping centers and on hot summer holiday days at beach parking lots. At parking garages of stadiums or theaters with a specific start time for the game, where all spectators arrive on time and at the same time, backlogs play an even greater role and may even affect the flow of traffic around the venues.

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Barrier systems also pose a challenge from a financial point of view. In addition to the barriers themselves, ticket terminals are required at the entrance and exit as well as automatic pay stations. A parking management system based on a barrier system also generates considerable operating costs: in addition to electricity for the barrier, the terminals and the pay stations, maintenance and repair costs must also be factored in. Added to this are the running costs for magnetic strip tickets, which have to be reissued and disposed of for each parking process. In addition, a 24-hour service hotline and an on-call service may have to be provided.

In addition, barriers can be hit by carelessness or deliberately and then no longer function. This not only results in material and repair costs, but the operators also lose out on revenue. Because if the barrier is missing or open, nobody takes a ticket and no payment is made.

Barrier systems also have a negative impact in terms of sustainability, as their mechanical components are susceptible to wear and tear. This includes not only the barriers, which have to open and close for each parked vehicle, but also the automatic pay stations and ticket terminals at the entrance and exit. In addition, every parking ticket generates waste.

What unrestricted alternatives are there?

Parking lot operators can opt for a classic alternative to a barrier system and set up parking columns where parkers buy a ticket for a certain period of time upon arrival. To ensure that parkers also buy parking tickets, staff are required to regularly check them in the parked vehicles and, if necessary, follow up on parking violations. Alternatively, daily parking tickets can be sold by staff at the entrances to the parking lot. 

Both options offer parkers little flexibility: with the first option, they have to estimate how long they want to park when they arrive. With the second option, even short-term parkers have to buy a day ticket.

A third option is digital, barrier-free parking management solutions such as the Peter Park system, which automatically calculates the parking time using data protection-compliant license plate recognition at the entrance and exit.

How does smart parking management work? 

The smart Internet of Things solution from Peter Park requires hardly any hardware in the parking areas and incurs only low acquisition and maintenance costs. The barrier-free system also saves resources: the absence of barriers reduces wear-prone components; instead, the solution is based on license plate recognition, which scans vehicles entering and exiting. The system uses this to calculate the exact parking time. The license plate is read in accordance with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Before leaving the parking space or multi-storey parking lot, parkers pay the parking fee by entering their license plate number in partner apps, at the machines installed or online up to 24 hours later. There are no paper tickets, which saves costs and avoids waste. The absence of barriers means there is no need to stop at the entrance and exit, which prevents tailbacks.

Parking operators receive real-time data on the use of their spaces without having to install additional sensors. They can view and analyze the information via a user-friendly dashboard. Data on current utilization can also be transmitted to websites and parking guidance systems and shown on displays in or near the parking area.

When it comes to pricing, the system opens up new possibilities thanks to dynamic pricing models: Parking operators can flexibly increase or decrease the parking fees for individual spaces, for example depending on occupancy. This function is also suitable if parkers who reserve a parking space in advance are to be offered a lower rate. This option is interesting for airports, for example, where travelers park for several days.

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Peter Park also relieves its partners with a comprehensive service from a single source. If parking violations occur, a query can be made to the Federal Motor Transport Authority to determine the owner's details and non-payers receive a contractual penalty.

Digital parking at the Olympic ski jump in Innsbruck

The Peter Park system has already proven itself in daily use in many parking areas, including in Innsbruck: Bergisel Betriebsgesellschaft introduced the barrier-free parking management system from Peter Park at the parking area at the Olympic ski jump in fall 2023. The digital solution offers a modern, user-friendly parking experience and reduces the effort and costs for Bergisel Betriebsgesellschaft. Low acquisition, maintenance and servicing costs as well as automated processes increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness. 

Bernhard Niggler, Managing Director of Bergisel Betriebsgesellschaft, cites another key reason for the change: "Many of our guests are tourists who are planning a visit to Bergisel as part of their vacation. Previously, if the barrier system failed, they had to wait for the security service to open the barrier so that they could continue their journey and drive to the next attraction, for example. With the barrier-free, digital solution, parkers can leave at any time. This is one of the reasons why we decided to introduce this new innovative solution at Bergisel." 

In the town of Wertheim in Baden-Württemberg and at the Scheibbs State Hospital in Austria, outdated and high-maintenance barrier systems have also been replaced by the Peter Park system.

Unlimited happiness 

Barrier systems have served as a good solution for parking space management for many years. However, digitalization also offers new possibilities for parking space management. Smart parking management solutions such as the Peter Park system not only dispense with cost-intensive mechanical components, they also provide parking lot operators with interesting data - the much-vaunted "gold of the 21st century". Arrange a meeting with our digital parking experts now and become happy without barriers!

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