New showcase project in Montabaur: ICE station parking based on automatic number plate detection
The ICE railway station is the ultimate showcase facility in the town of Montabaur, with 200 ICEs stopping there every week. Tens of thousands of commuters and visitors to Fashion Outlet Montabaur use this transportation hub, as do employees of the nearly 80 companies based in the ICE Park industrial estate. As a result, there is considerable parking pressure at the railway station. The car park to the north of the railway line alone used 60,000 times per month.
For many years, the free parking areas around the station suffered from chronic overload. Montabaur responded in 2017 by extended its parking facilities to include 150 additional spaces. But the municipal authorities wanted to provide even greater convenience for rail commuters. As a result, Scheidt & Bachmann was contracted to install an extensive parking system in 2018 based on automatic number plate detection for about 1,000 parking spaces on the northern side of the station.
The clearly stated aim of the new car park management solution is to give preference to rail commuters and further enhance the convenience aspect. Once again, Montabaur has remained faithful to its image as a pioneer: the free-flow system – i.e. a car park without the usual barriers and control devices – is the biggest of its kind in the whole of Germany. A fee is now charged for parking at the ICE station, but special rates are available to rail commuters: they can use the parking facilities for EUR 20.00 per month or EUR 200.00 per year. All other users pay EUR 0.80 per hour, EUR 5.00 per day or EUR 15.00 per week. The Kiss & Ride concept means that the first hour doesn’t cost anything, so rail travellers can be dropped off and picked up free of charge.
The new system features a number of technical highlights: unlike conventional ticketless systems, the free-flow concept does not require a device interface or triggers such as ground loops for identification purposes. Two cameras – positioned in the entrance and exit lanes respectively – are sufficient to identify the vehicle, capturing both the front and rear number plates. There is no need for any other control devices. The cameras also have a direction capture function which prevents misuse: this make it impossible for motorists to outsmart the system by exiting via the entrance lane, for example.
The camera captures the number plate via infrared as the vehicle drives in and stores an HD image. This information is saved in the car park’s central computer for the duration of car park use. At the pay station, users conveniently enter their registration number and the fee is then displayed. They can pay in cash, by debit card or via NFC using their smartphone. As the vehicle exits the car park, the camera detects the number plate and a check is carried out to ensure the customer has paid. If this is the case, the data is automatically deleted. If the car park user leaves without having paid, the registration number is automatically forwarded to the parking fee enforcement system operated by Schweers.
Another great advantage of the new Scheidt & Bachmann system is that it has an extremely reliable detection rate of 99 per cent. Among other things, this is due to a ground bump separating the lanes. When a car passes over this bump, a distance is automatically created between it and the vehicle to the rear, so the camera is able to capture the number plate at the optimum angle. This means that vehicles do not have to stop: they simply drive on through. As a result, traffic can flow without limitations and delays, even at peak times. For the rare cases in which the system fails to detect the number plate, Scheidt & Bachmann has established a so-called Honest Payment scheme. If the pay station fails to find a matching entry in the system, the user can enter their registration number and time of entry manually and then pay for their use of the car park in the normal way.
Rail customers can apply to the municipal authorities for a QR code. This is simply scanned in at one of the modern pay stations, enabling the user to purchase their parking for a month or a year at the special rate. The Montabaur authorities have already received several hundreds of these applications.