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Parking by sensors: New parking technology makes it easier to find a park at Christchurch Airport

Customers will no longer have to drive in circles to find a park at Christchurch airport, after the airport’s owner teamed up with Palmerston North-based parking management company Frogparking to introduce a sensor-based system. 

More than 5.7 million passengers travelled through Christchurch airport last year, meaning parking space is at a premium. With the new system, people arriving at the bustling airport can expect real-time advice on where to park, including signs displaying available parking spaces.

The system works using battery-operated parking sensors almost the size of a tennis ball. Christchurch airport management has installed 1100 sensors, one in each parking space, linked to a cloud-based management system.

All ticket information is instantly available to airport staff, who know when a car has parked over the sensor. Cars parked in 30-minute restricted parking zones, for example, and overstaying the time limit can be easily identified and penalised.

Frogparking marketing manager Shareena Sandbrook said the new system means customers can park faster and save time. It also makes it easier for customers to find disabled or family parking spaces.

The sensors will also help the airport to monitor parking patterns, Sandbrook says. Understanding users’ parking habits  allows airport staff to keep tabs on where customers prefer to park, and ultimately build this into future parking design.

Steve Scott, manager of ground transport at the airport, says the changes reflect feedback from airport users and are part of a cluster of improvements at the airport, which began in 2014.

Sandbrook says that the Christchurch system is relatively unsophisticated compared to what is increasingly being used overseas. Approximately 95% of Frogparking’s sales are in the US, where parking is at a premium.

She says mobile parking services, where people use their smart phones both to find parking spaces and to pay for their tickets, are increasingly common in the US.

“The population mass there means parking is scarce and there is a big problem with congestion at malls and elsewhere. There is a higher general awareness in the US about innovative parking products and services, and customers are demanding cashless parking technology and guidance systems. This means parking providers are investing in these systems.”

For this reason, Frogparking will make the announcement of a newly-developed parking innovation at an upcoming trade fair in the US, Sandbrook says.

She says the company has seen revenues double each year since Frogparking was founded five years ago, and it now has 27 staff members in two offices, in Palmerston North and Wellington.

As well as the North American market, Frogparking is also installing systems in Europe, and has a growing customer base in the United Arab Emirates.

Expect to see more parking innovation in future years. Here are three we found:

CarTowers: A 20-storey tall car park tower in Wolfsburg, Germany. The tower is owned by Volkswagen and is thought to be the model for parking garages of the future.

Stackable parking – In Taiwan to economise on space, drivers’ cars are lifted slowly into slots on a raised shelf.

This is old and noisy technology, but still something that could be re-designed for New Zealand. 

No car parks at all:  Amsterdam has built over many of its car parks to encourage road users to cycle instead. Large bicycle parks have been built around the city.

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