Fear of Parking

By Randy I. Atlas, CPP


Parking facility signage should be well lit, with letters or symbols that are a minimum of eight inches high. Wall signage for pedestrian and vehicular traffic should be graphic whenever possible to ensure universal understanding and provide a sense of clear direction. To aid outgoing drivers, parking areas should be marked with graphics and with color-coding to help patrons easily remember the location of their cars. Walt Disney World’s parking lots offer a classic example of how graphics, signage, and one-way traffic flow can allow effortless parking for several hundred thousand people a day largely without incident.

Technology is now available to easily direct drivers of incoming vehicles to a specific floor or parking space. Advanced parking systems (APS) use sensors, radio frequency, and other technologies, to obtain information about the location of available parking spaces, process it, and then present it to drivers by means of variable message signs.

APS can be used in two ways. First, APS can guide drivers in congested areas to the nearest parking facility with empty parking spaces. Second, an APS system can be used to guide drivers within parking facilities to empty spaces. Although the former function is more common, guidance systems within parking lots are becoming more popular.

The need for APS is most prominent in very dense areas, where the search for parking facilities congests and interrupts traffic flows. While European cities have shown the most interest in APS, having implemented it in the late 1970s, American cities have been testing APS in the past decade.

Illegitimate signage. Graffiti in parking environments is a form of illegitimate signage, which often means that gangs or vandals loiter there. It  should be removed as quickly as possible.

The CPTED-minded architect can also take steps to discourage graffiti. Wall surfaces can be coated with graffiti resistant epoxy paint and lighting levels can be increased in problem areas to allow for natural surveillance. The specific steps security takes are not as important as the decision to act.  Efforts to prevent graffiti tell vandals that the property is the territory of its rightful owners.

Mixed Uses

The territoriality of desired site users has also been increased by a new trend: making parking part of a mixed use development. By having legitimate users in and around the parking facility more frequently, the garage increases the number of legitimate users and casual “eyes on the street.”

Many garages are adding retail storefronts, such as copying facilities, fast food eateries, or car washes to provide compatible safe activities that draw legitimate users. Additionally, parking may be reserved during the day for businesses, then the lot may become flat-fee parking at night for area nightclubs and restaurants.

When a parking facility assesses risks and threats and uses a holistic CPTED approach to improving security as discussed here, the opportunity for crime will decrease, undesired elements will search for new ground, and a safe haven will be created for legitimate users. 

Randy I. Atlas, Ph.D., AIA, CPP, is a vice-president of Atlas Safety and Security Design, Inc. He is a registered architect, NCARB (National Council of Architectural Registration Boards) certified, and practices criminal justice architecture, environmental security design, counter-terrorism design, and infrastructure protection. He is a member of the ASIS International Council on Security Architecture and Engineering and is program chairman of the Facility Design Workshop for ASIS. In addition, he has taught CPTED courses at Florida Atlantic University and the University of Miami Schools of Architecture. He is also a trainer with the Institute of Community Security and Public Safety (formerly the National Crime Prevention Institute) at the University of Louisville and the American Institute of Architects.



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