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LR airport to update parking system

by Noel Oman | March 14, 2015 at 2:24 a.m.

The state's largest airport will spend up to $2.8 million to install a state-of-the-art parking access and revenue control system.

The system will include technology that will allow patrons to tell what spaces are available in the 844-space parking deck at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field, a parking pre-booking application linked to the airport's website and available online for use by parking patrons from their computer or smartphone, and the ability to process transactions through patrons' smartphones.

A $660,000 license-plate recognition system will be included with the proposal to "increase revenue security," according to airport officials. Such a system checks the ticket against actual time in the lot, preventing errors and cheating anywhere on the airport's 3,507 parking spaces.

Act 1491 of 2013, which governs the use of automatic license-plate reader systems in Arkansas, allows the readers to be used "by parking enforcement entities for regulating the use of parking facilities."

Using the license readers would replace a system in which two airport employees manually record the license plates in the airport parking lots nightly.

Airport officials told members of the Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission's finance committee that the parking access and revenue control system would replace a 15-year-old system that has reached the end of its useful life and has a Windows operating system that no longer would be supported by Microsoft as of July 15.

As a result, the existing system no longer would comply with payment card industry data security standards, making the airport liable for incorrect or fraudulent credit card transactions and not the banks that issued the cards, airport officials said.

They were unable to locate the cost of the existing system Friday.

"We had to upgrade that to get back in compliance," said Tom Clarke, the airport's property, planning and development director. "But since we are updating the system, we are looking to add new features and new technology."

Ron Mathieu, the executive director at Clinton National, said Friday that airport officials wouldn't increase rates for the use of the airport's parking spaces to pay for the new system

"Looking at increasing parking rates is not really on my radar to do any time soon," Mathieu said after the meeting. "We know parking is a sensitive deal to a lot of people."

Mathieu said the same earlier in the week at a meeting of the commission's lease committee, whose members expressed concern about the impact the purchase might have on patrons.

"They wanted to make sure this wasn't going to lead immediately to a parking fee increase," Virgil Miller Jr., the lease committee chairman who also is a finance committee member, said Friday.

The airport last increased its parking fees in 2010.

Parking is an important source of revenue for the airport. It accounts for about 30 percent of the airport's annual operating revenue.

Last year, the airport collected $9.4 million in parking fees. Total operating revenue, which includes landing fees, concessions, ground transportation and leases, totaled $30.7 million, according to the year-end financial report for the airport.

Both committees recommended moving forward with the proposal, using NextGen Parking of Houston as the vendor. The company was one of four that submitted responses to the airport's request for proposals to replace the existing parking access and revenue control system.

NextGen and HUB Parking Technology, an Italian company with a U.S. office in Pennsylvania, were selected by an airport review team for interviews. Both firms then submitted "best and final" offers. From that, the consensus of the review team was to recommend NextGen, according to airport documents.

If the commission approves the proposal at its regular meeting Tuesday, the system could be in place before the end of the year, according to Bryant Malinowski, the airport's deputy executive director.

Under the terms of the proposal, NextGen will be paid $1,835,000, which will cover all materials, equipment, labor, testing, expenses and taxes for the replacement system and added features.

The parking deck guidance and space count system will cost an additional $450,000. The proposal includes another $65,000 payment for spare parts. The total proposal amount -- $2,585,000 -- includes a 10 percent contingency. The commission previously had approved $216,000 for the design and construction phase services by the engineering firm of LPA/Michael Baker Group.

The license plate recognition system will give the airport a more efficient way to "reconcile a parking fee," Clarke said.

"When the customer comes up to the booth, it will automatically read the license plate as he is giving his ticket to the attendant," Clarke said. "The system will then pull up the historical data -- the date and the time the vehicle entered the lot based on that license number -- [and] can internally calculate what that should be and compare that to the data on the ticket itself. It is a way of securing revenue."

Tom Schueck, the finance committee chairman, said he thought the license plate recognition system was an "expensive tool."

Mathieu responded that the airport will realize savings over time and attrition through labor savings.

"Every night we have people go out and physically record license plate numbers," he said.

It is done for a couple of reasons.

"When somebody comes up to you and says 'I don't remember where I parked,' we say what's your license plate number, we look it up and see where you were parked and take you there," Mathieu said. "If you've been parked there 10 days and you drive out with a ticket that says you've been there 20 minutes, we need to be able to protect our revenue."

The license plate recognition system also will allow the technology that will be used for people who want to reserve a parking space, Mathieu said.

Steve Bingham, an attorney for the airport, said the state law under which the airport can use the license plate recognition system doesn't allow the airport to sell the data it collects. The airport cannot keep the data for more than 150 days, according to Act 1491.

As for another major feature, the real-time space counter for the parking deck will be able to track the number of vehicles parked on the second and third levels of the three-story parking deck, Clarke said.

The parking guidance system will allow people who want to park in the deck to "see by indicators over each space the ones that are open and proceed directly to that rather than drive through each of the lanes in search of a space," he said. "There will be displays as you enter the space that says 'Level 2 is full,' so you know immediately that you go to Level 3, or 'there are 45 spaces available Level 3.' It maintains a real-time count."

Metro on 03/14/2015

Print Headline: LR airport to update parking system

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