WEST — Parking on state beaches, including Misquamicut, is easier than ever, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Management (DEM), which operates eight saltwater beaches and parking lots associates.
The department has again partnered with LAZ Parking to modernize, digitize and rationalize the parking of more than one million annual bathers this year. DEM has implemented a customized technology platform based on LAZ’s e-commerce, business intelligence and customer service solutions.
The technology allows residents and out-of-state visitors to purchase seasonal parking passes and flexible daily passes at https://beachparkingri.com. With a flexible daily pass, beachgoers are automatically billed the daily parking rate when their vehicle enters one of the state’s beach parking lots. The flexible parking pass is a good option, DEM officials say, if a beach goer isn’t sure how many times they can visit the beach, but would like the option of using the express lanes.
Both passes use license plate recognition technology for validation and allow pass holders access to express lanes for faster entry. The technology was in limited use in 2020 before it was suspended due to travel restrictions and capacity limits associated with COVID-19.
Improvements include the ability for customers to pre-purchase day and season passes online, express lanes using license plate recognition technology for prepaid customers at certain locations, the ability to provide real-time parking capacity data that DEM can use to communicate alerts when lots are at or near full capacity, and the ability to capture the number of visits and revenue in real time to ensure that the correct fees are billed and collected for each transaction. Initial data showed that purchasing a seasonal or flexible pass online and using an express lane significantly reduced parking time. according to a press release from DEM and LAZ.
To help cut down on the time beachgoers spend at the entrance counters, DEM encourages residents of the state to purchase seasonal and daily passes for flexible parking online or in advance. Anyone who purchases a seasonal parking pass or daily flexible parking pass online or before heading to the beach can use the express lanes for quick beach access. Buying seasonal or daily flexible parking cards online also helps DEM keep express lanes open, as there have been instances where express lanes could not be used because too many people were paying to park at the park. entrance gates rather than using prepaid parking cards.
“Transaction times per vehicle at the beach entrance counters for the sale of seasonal beach passes used to take up to three minutes per car,” said acting director of DEM Terrence Gray in the press release. “If you multiply that by the thousands of cars we host on busy summer weekends, the weather really adds up and means worse traffic slowdowns and delays for everyone. This technology will be even more critical in 2021, as the state expects record crowds this year. “
DEM entered into a first contract with LAZ Parking in early 2020, after a competitive bidding process, to operate and modernize parking on state beaches.
DEM also uses LAZ Business Intelligence technology to collect, organize and analyze data to improve the parking process. This technology was useful in 2020 during the pandemic due to frequent changes in capacity limits, new federal and state regulations, and increased consumer safety concerns. With the new technology stack in place, DEM could easily provide accurate data to demonstrate compliance with all COVID restrictions and guidelines, according to the press release.
The technology includes dynamic data visualization that integrates data sets such as real-time lot capacity, historical parking data, current weather, seasonality, and tide charts to forecast and manage potential overcrowding. This information can be used to increase or decrease the number of places available, communicate alerts when lots are at or near capacity, and manage staffing decisions.
– Dale P. Faulkner