THE MAGAZINE

Parking Snatcher Solution

By Ann Longmore-Etheridge

Breckenridge, Colorado, is a skiing paradise. Annually, enthusiasts from around the world flock to the town nestled in the majestic, snowcapped Rocky Mountains. One of the area’s prime resorts is The Village at Breckenridge, consisting of 235 residential units, plus commercial units and retail shops. Built during the late 1970s and early 1980s, The Village sits at the end of the quaint Main Street at the base of Peak Nine. The resort has many attractions, but it was the parking lot, because of its convenient location within a short walk of the ski lifts, that unauthorized users found irresistible.

After years of frustration for both guests and The Village’s homeowners association, the property managers recently realized that they had the opportunity to solve the problem as part of an overall renovation that would include upgrading the buildings and retail facilities, as well as forming a metro district around the property. The Village is in the early phases of the renovation, and dealing with illegal parkers in the underground, 130-space garage “is part of the first stage,” says Tony Wait, manager of The Village at Breckenridge Homeowners Association (HOA).

It’s not that the lot had no security in the past, explains Wait, but over the years, “People found ways in which to ‘infiltrate’ the parking, if you will. They developed a whole raft of methodologies to find their way in.”

Some people tailgated behind authorized users at the card-reader-secured roll-up portcullis door. A few savvy cheaters exited their cars to push a discrete emergency button that triggered the door. Once inside the garage, some used forged permit hangtags sold on the local black market to fool HOA parking enforcement. But the largest group took advantage of the rental agencies’ laxness in tracking and terminating the keycards of the many guests who had at some time rented units from the homeowners.

Nine rental management companies and ten solo rental agents across the United States handle The Village’s various properties. All of them issue parking and other common-area keycards, such as those for the gym. “Guests were holding on to the proximity cards and hangtags or giving them to others once they had checked out,” Wait says, adding that there were far “more out there than there were parking spaces.”

Christmas season was a special nightmare. “The parking was being filled up by nonguests, and the guests who were being displaced were frustrated and angry,” he recalls. “They wouldn’t leave the property for fear of coming back and not having a parking place.”

In 2006, the HOA visited Denver to see how other garages managed their facilities, but they found no useful model. The only option they saw—and it was an expensive one—was to create an attendant booth staffed around the clock.

Not happy with that approach, the HOA sought the help of Securus, a local security systems integrator. Securus came back to the HOA with information about OnPark online parking reservation service by Brivo, LLC, of Bethesda, Maryland. “It was interesting to us because it was Web-based and would let the different management companies allocate spaces from wherever they were located,” Wait states.

Brivo worked with the HOA to customize OnPark. “It was already highly developed by Brivo,” he explains. “All we needed was a simplified front-end on it for quick and simple use.”

OnPark regulates parking spaces based on the lodging industry’s practice of up-front reservations. Each management agent or agency is assigned a certain number of spaces for which the guests pay $15 per day (no fee was charged for parking previously). Once those spots are taken, the agencies cannot procure any further spaces. Reservations are made through a user-friendly Web interface.

After booking a parking space, the agent programs a microchip with the client’s information and dates of arrival and departure. The microchip is attached to the back of a parking hangtag, allowing it to function like a proximity card. Some agents mail the hangtag to the guests, while others hand them out when guests check into the management company’s satellite offices in Breckenridge.

Wait can use the Web interface to view all the guest data for parking. The landing page for the OnPark site displays the garage’s current occupancy. After 6 p.m., all unclaimed spots are pooled, giving the HOA the option to rent those spaces out as pay parking to the public. “We haven’t done that yet. We wanted to see how this winter season went first,” Wait states.

Last autumn, the HOA installed new card readers that worked with the program, and OnPark went live on October 1. Brivo trained the rental agents on the system’s use, and Wait says, “In the early days, sometimes we had to jump in and help [the agents], but it’s rare these days for anyone to have a problem.”

On the technical side, Wait says there were some software tweaking issues, but all of these were addressed by the start of the ski season. “We’ll meet with them at the end of the season to give them the wish list of changes for future versions,” if they find more changes are warranted, he says.

OnPark so far has successfully halted the onslaught of parking invaders. “I don’t think I have had a single complaint this winter of a legitimate person not getting a parking space,” says Wait. “Now they know they can leave Breckenridge and go skiing in Vale and come back that evening and have a space. ”

The HOA has a yearly contract with Brivo and pays an ongoing service fee. Wait says that the HOA probably would have been willing to incur the cost because the system “increased the guest and owner satisfaction so much.” But they have not had to do that. “Because we initiated a parking fee, we’re going to pick up quite a reasonable amount of money this winter,” explains Wait. “We broke even six weeks into the process…. We’ve already paid for it all, including the new hardware.”

This spring, the HOA also plans to work with Securus to implement use of Brivo’s ACS Webservice online access control system throughout the rest of The Village. Proximity readers will be placed on all the building doors.


(For more information: Brivo Systems, LLC; phone: 301/664-5272; Web: www.brivo.com.)

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