Digital Wayfinding Put to Work for the City of Austin Through ABM and Smarking

Updated: Oct 25


City of Austin

Introduction


According to Donald Shoup in The High Cost of Free Parking, 30% of all urban traffic is caused by drivers looking for a parking space. Therefore, by reducing the time parkers need to find a parking space, a city can reduce congestion. In 2019, The City of Austin (The City) bought large digital parking occupancy display signs for two locations, Central Library Garage and Central City Garage. The goal of displaying the signs was to reduce traffic congestion and increase citizen satisfaction by increasing the ease of finding parking in the city center. In addition, The City could save on the labor costs of manually counting parking spaces and conveying occupancy data to each parker individually.


The City was unable to integrate the digital signs with their parking system data. The data was too complex, had too many parking system data types, and did not have a single occupancy number they could easily display. The City of Austin launched a wayfinding system without understanding the dynamics of garage occupancy. The City bought the digital signs to project accurate real-time parking data, but needed Smarking’s unique technology and solution capability in data centralization, predictive analytics, and data visualization came in.


Digital Signs on Display


Smarking gave us the ability to gather and push occupancy data to our wayfinding systems without the expense and maintenance of a space by space counting system”

David Dale, Parking Services Manager, City of Austin


ABM and The City of Austin Parking Enterprise Team Brings the Digital Signs Out of Storage


The City hired ABM to operate their parking garages and figure out how to display their digital signage. ABM knew that the digital signs would need an easy input and interface in order to display accurate occupancy data. Manually checking empty parking spaces is both prohibitively labor intensive and is often inaccurate. ABM partnered with Smarking in February 2020 to integrate parking data from the Central Library Garage and Central City Garage. ABM rescued The City's digital signage from storage by adopting a system that no longer needs daily parking reconciliations, as well as uses a machine learning algorithm to reset garage counts accurately.


ABM installed and fitted the digital signs during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Traffic congestion in downtown Austin dramatically decreased because of the stay-at-home order. However, when the order was removed and citizens returned to the central business district, they saw the new digital signs and easily found parking.