As a parking manager, there was nothing I liked more than seeing that every space was filled in my garages, and my client’s facilities had optimized their capacity. But is indicating FULL on your parking counting VMS (Variable Messaging sign) always the best option to show oncoming motorists? Are there any times where it’s best not to be full?

While parking guidance and counting technologies have been around for more than three decades, it can be implemented for different purposes across various asset types to control customer behaviour.


Lessons from On-Street programs:

In projects such as SFPark and other smart parking initiatives, one of the critical goals are to establish space availability (85 – 95% Occupancy Targets) for on-street assets using price changes and guidance to affect customer behaviour. This is applied to ensure availability of spaces for new parkers so that they may have quick access to local businesses, and reduce congestion associated with looking for free spaces.

This can be directly applied to the off-street garage or surface lot assets by lowering the total number of spaces displayed in your parking counting system by 3-5%. By allowing a CCS165A-0097-Sign-FULL-Download-JPEG (Small)buffer of spaces for last few wanted  parkers, they will still find a spot in good time – ensuring parker satisfaction and access to tenants and local businesses.


Retail – Not Full Enough

A common communications strategy in large retail parking environments is setting Capacity Floors, so that the number of free spaces displayed on the parking counter never goes below a certain value. For instance; a shopping centre may set the minimum spaces displayed on their VMS as 10 (even when FULL) so that a potential parker is never turned away.

This strategy can also have repercussions on customer trust, should they be dismayed when a facility indicates free spaces when there are none available.


VMS & Web Communications

Depending on how your parkers are accessing the parking facility occupancy info, you may want to deploy a different strategy for each medium. Variable Messaging Signs (VMS) are the absolute best way to attract and control local parking traffic. If you are managing a very busy events scenario and have only 10% occupancy left, you may wish to only show free spaces to the busy local traffic, and indicate FULL OCCUPANCY to web apps to prevent traffic when there are no free spaces in the future.


Trial and Error

In the end, any of these parking counter communications strategies can be attempted and dropped until you reach the optimal traffic flows for your off street facilities. The important issue is to understand what will be the best balance between the operational goals and parker expectations, and regularly monitor and fine tune your strategy.


If you would like to learn more about creating the right parking counting strategy for your parking asset or portfolio, contact our experts today!