High-tech parking system finds spots fast

CENTURY CITY, Calif. Westfield Century City mall is the first in the nation to use the Park Assist Electronic Parking Management System. Westfield officials say it's designed to do one thing: Help you find a parking spot within two minutes, even if the shopping center is crowded.

Westfield debuted the system last week. They say customers love it.

"When you hear compliments about parking, about how it cuts their time in half, how they were able to enjoy their time shopping rather than searching for a parking spot -- that is just music to our ears," said Westfield General Manager Erick Klafter.

"The response, globally, has been fantastic," said Park Assist President Richard Joffe. "In England, in Europe, in Australia as well, we've seen rises of 2, 3, 4 percent, more people coming to shopping centers just like this."

So how does the system work? Officials at Westfield say that when you come to their parking garage, all you have to do is look up at the entrance board at Level A or Level B, and the numbers on the board indicate just how many spaces are available at that particular time so that when you drive into the garage, you can find a parking spot very quickly.

Each parking spot at the garage has a sensor that detects vehicles and transmits data in real time to lights that immediately turn green if the space is available, and red if it's not. The sensors constantly send update information to the entrance board.

"It's made finding a parking spot so much easier," said shopper Nuriad Mahmmod. "I've just been able to look overhead and go straight to a spot."

"I think it's really great," said shopper Debbie Reamer. "It's going to save a lot of time with the holidays. My friends like it and I'm liking it too."

Westfield officials wouldn't talk specifics about the cost of this system, but they say it's proven cost-effective because it appears more shoppers have visited the mall since the system was put in place. They say they're considering whether to put it in their other shopping center garages throughout Southern California.


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