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On Jul 01 2021 / by Wyoming Paul

What is a parking management system?

A broad umbrella term covering everything from dated, manual processes to the latest cutting edge software solutions

What is a parking management system, you ask? To put it simply, it’s any kind of system which helps people to manage their car park. There’s a huge range of different systems, but typically they include a few common elements:

  1. A payment method: most car park owners want to be paid for their parking space!
  2. Monitoring and enforcement: for those who haven’t paid, or shouldn’t park there
  3. Access control: gates and barriers which regulate who can access the car park
  4. Reporting: to let the car park owner or operator know how the park is used

While these elements are pretty consistent, how people manage their car park (and manage payment, monitoring, access and reporting) is hugely varied. Which brings us to...

As technology has evolved, so have parking management systems

Over the past few decades, what ‘parking management system’ refers to has completely transformed. Once upon a time, all it meant was a parking attendant clipping tickets and taking cash. Today, it’s a term that encompasses a number of wildly different setups and includes computer vision, software apps, automation and IoT.

We’ll take you from the prehistoric age of parking to the present day - from manual and time-intensive systems, to hardware, and then to cutting-edge software solutions.

Manual car park management

When you think of a manual parking system, you might think of the slightly comical ‘man in the hut’ - someone watching the car park with binoculars, keeping records on a big ledger. However, many companies still run their car parks with at least some manual components.

If we check in with the four key elements to any car park management system, we can see the manual way to doing things:

  • Payments - these are made in cash. In a manual system, payment is usually handled when people leave the car park, after a parking warden checks a paper ticket to see how long they have parked for.
  • Monitoring - someone physically keeps an eye on who is coming and going. For example, paper tickets or IDs on each vehicle dashboard are manually checked.
  • Access control - when vehicles arrive at the park, someone is at the entrance to give them a paper ticket and allow them to access the car park.
  • Reporting - someone manually counts how many vehicles are parked, and keeps track of this on a ledger or in a computer spreadsheet.

As you can imagine, this absorbs a lot of time and human resources. Plus, a manual system has the most potential for errors and corruption - for example, parking wardens skimming from the parking fees, or not having time to accurately monitor all of the cars. It’s a net with big holes, which means it’s easy to lose part of your revenue.

Hardware-based management

For the past 50 years, most large car parks have been managed through hardware solutions. These solutions include the parking cash machines that often sit beside street parking, but we’ll focus on the barrier arms that block commercial and mall car parks, spitting out tickets on the way in, and requiring payment or a paid ticket on the way out.

In terms of those main four elements…

  • Payments - people pay at a machine for the length of their stay, either to open the barrier arm as they leave, or at a paystation within the car park. Machines generally take card payments, and sometimes also cash.
  • Monitoring - because people need to pull a ticket to park, the hardware system automatically tracks how many people are currently parking.
  • Access control - barrier arms or gates effectively control car park access.
  • Reporting - hardware solutions have backend reporting, which tracks occupancy and revenue generation.

Hardware is reliable at taking payments, monitoring, and providing access control. However, it comes with high upfront costs, and the machines need to be maintained. This is why companies are now opting for a third option...

Software solutions

Expense is part of the reason that people are turning to car park management software solutions. However, software also promises a better experience for parkers, remote monitoring, detailed reporting, and the flexibility to suit any car park - public, workplace, tenant, visitor, and mixed-use.

Generally, a software solution includes:

  • A user app, so parkers can pay and book a park through their smartphone
  • A web panel where administrators receive real-time information about what’s happening in the car park
  • Integrations with hardware like access control gates and EV chargers

When we check the four key elements, they look dramatically different once again:

  • Payments - people pay through an app with their credit card. Payments are automated, based on their length of stay, and can be hourly, daily, weekly or monthly.
  • Monitoring - people report problems in the car park through their app, so the parking administrator is kept up to date remotely.
  • Access control - software parking management systems like Parkable integrate with barrier arms and gates to effectively control car park access. People simply tap a button in the app to open the gate and begin their paid parking session, or use ANPR computer vision technology to open gates automatically when they drive up.
  • Reporting - software solutions have backend reporting built in. For example, Parkable tracks everything from occupancy to infringements to revenue to who is using the car park over time.

Want to learn more about how a better parking management system could improve your employee parking? Check out our ultimate guide to solving staff parking problems!

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