Why Zion National Park chose the Parking Logix OpenSpace platform

The Zion National Park in Utah, USA is home to towering rock formations, narrow canyons, and breathtaking trails. Four and a half million people from around the world head to Zion each year to witness its beauty and explore its wonder.

With such numbers of people to deal with, the Park’s limited visitor parking was often overwhelmed. Park management needed a parking control solution that would help streamline parking and improve the visitor experience.

The Client

Access to Zion roads is by shuttle only during the busy season, with vehicle parking lots located at the park entrance adjacent to the visitor centre. Parking is usually full by mid-morning and visitors who can’t find parking have to head back to the nearby town to find somewhere to park.

The Challenge

During the busy season (which is as much as 8 months of the year), there are often long lines to get into Zion National Park and limited parking available. When visitors discover the full carpark after waiting for some time, they are obliged to drive back to the nearby town of Springdale to park and wait for the Zion shuttle to bring them back to the park entrance. Waiting to get into Zion, looking for parking, and then heading back to town to park and take the shuttle can cost visitors upwards of an hour of wasted time.

Zion attempted to avoid people waiting for parking when there was none by conducting manual parking counts. Park rangers were keeping manual count of parking spots and would radio rangers at the entrance to let people know when parking lots were full. But this system is labour intensive, requiring rangers to constantly monitor lots for parking availability. It also leaves too much room for human error as well as long hot hours spent on monotonous counting.

While an automated parking counting system would help streamline parking and improve the visitor experience at Zion, traditional parking counting systems require substantial modification to Park infrastructure.

Power, communications, trenching, and new asphalt could all require extensive compliance delays. What’s more, installation would need to take place during the northern hemisphere winter months – despite frigid temperatures – since the autumn, spring, and summer all see upwards of 15,000 visitors a day and parking lots could not be closed.

The Solution

Zion National Park knew they needed to automate their parking, but were limited to solutions that didn’t require extensive modifications to their existing Park infrastructure. The OpenSpace parking guidance system provided the ideal solution, with highly accurate parking counts and no need for trenching, power, communications or to replace asphalt to cover sensors.

OpenSpace gave the national park the solution they needed to automate the labour-intensive practice of manual parking counting – with no need to install sensors underground. The system was installed at each of the three parking entrances to the Zion visitor lots. Unlike an underground project that might require years for approval, the OpenSpace parking guidance system was approved in a matter of weeks and installed in one morning.

OpenSpace gives the National Park automated instant access to parking data, without the need to install sensors. The simple, intuitive parking counter works with sensors embedded in speed humps at entrance and exit points. Data can then be shared with personnel and drivers in a variety of ways, which were fine-tuned to meet the national park’s unique needs. Data is shared on signage at the park and in the local town as well as through integrated apps.

The Benefits

With the OpenSpace parking guidance system up and running at Zion National Park, visitors no longer have to rely on difficult-to-access and sometimes inaccurate parking data, and park employees no longer have to spend time in the hot sun manually counting cars. When parking lots are full, visitors can see that info on 65” signs at the visitor centre, as well as outside the park, and in the city of Springdale.

An app gives instant parking updates to park employees so that they can answer questions from visitors about parking from wherever they are. Parking data is also integrated with the tourism department website and app so that visitors can see parking availability right from their phones.

“We’re really enjoying the ability to grab the data using API and share it in a whole bunch of different venues,” commented Jason Pitts, the Director of Park Data and research fellow at Dixie State who spearheaded the parking automation project. “We have a lot of different sensor networks at Zion counting people at bridges and shuttles and OpenSpace is really the simplest to work with.”

Park rangers at Zion are becoming accustomed to the convenience of automated parking counting with OpenSpace, and are keen to see the end of their manual counting tasks. A recently renovated park entrance, a multimillion-dollar project, didn’t even integrate the loop sensors the park had previously been using to help with manual counting.

“Our employees love how the automated system works,” remarked Mr. Pitts. “They hate the idea of going back to anything manual. [OpenSpace has made them] totally reliant on automation. And it’s been a great way to improve the visitor experience.”

Find out more about parking guidance systems for public spaces

For more information about how parking guidance can provide a better parking experience for visitors, contact PARCsafe to arrange a new online or face-to-face consultation on 1300 987 645 or get in touch online.