Des Moines Airport Parking Guidance System

Project Information

  • Owner

    Des Moines International Airport

  • Location

    Des Moines, IA

  • Year Completed


In the past, travelers arriving at Des Moines International Airport often circled aimlessly through the multi-level parking ramp looking for a place to park. On average, 15% of parking garage stalls go unused because people do not know where available spaces are located. When drivers leave the ramp frustrated and park elsewhere, customer satisfaction suffers and parking revenue is lost.

To better serve its customers and optimize parking space utilization and revenues, the Airport selected Baker Group to provide technical expertise, installation and service the new parking guidance system. Believed to be the first electronically guided parking system in Iowa, this project leverages Baker Group’s expertise in design, prefabrication, power, voice/data/video, parking revenue controls, and 24/7/365 service.

According to Michele Krakowski, an airport parking consultant who oversees parking guidance system installations across the country, “Not only did Baker Group do a good job on the typical pieces involved in installation, but they went above and beyond. They took ownership in the project and learned how the system functions, worked directly with the manufacturer to understand timing and what was happening with parts, and using software to give stakeholders daily updates and pictures. They even learned how to commission the sensors and signs themselves, whereas this is usually done by the manufacturer,” she says.

Guiding Drivers to Open Spaces
The airport’s new parking guidance system, which includes signage, takes the guesswork out of parking:

  • Starting at the airport entrance, electronic signs display the number of available parking spaces in the ramp;
  • At every intersection/decision point throughout the ramp, directional signage guides drivers to open, handicapped, reserved or other designated parking spots;
  • Slot availability is visibly displayed above the parking space with a green (open) or red (occupied) light.

The entire system is driven by highly reliable ultrasonic sensors located above each parking space.

Maximizing Parking Availability During Installation
A key concern for the airport was to keep the maximum possible number of parking spaces open during installation.

“To do our job, we need to clear an area 150 to 200 cars at a time. Because cars belong to people who are out of town, the process takes a week or two. Then we need four or five days to hang units, mount sensors, pull and wire cables, connect to controllers and get the system commissioned before turning section of parking over,” says Jamie Knutson, a Project Manager for Baker Group’s Electrical business unit. “Creating the schedule for this required a tremendous amount of coordination between the airport, their consultant and us.”

Adhering to the rigorous schedule also required ordering parts months before installation. Doug Ruschill, a Technology Project Manager for Baker Group, says, “Many parts for this system are manufactured in Austria, which has a six- to eight-week delivery time. We were vigilant to be certain the Electrical installation team had the needed parts exactly when they were needed.”

Airport Gains Significant Advantages
Several months before the installation schedule was launched, Baker Group completed a proof-of-concept test, which had excellent results. The full installation schedule was launched in April 2019. The Des Moines Airport began realizing immediate benefits, including:

  • Increased flexibility and efficiency. Highly reliable sensors can be individually programmed to accommodate changing parking needs. “In addition to changing the nature of the lights, the airport can change the brightness of each LED sensor, schedule by time of day, and run reports that provide the information they need to run the system in the most effective and efficient manner possible,” Ruschill says.
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction. As the first-installed sections of the ramp reopened, the airport immediately began receiving positive feedback from ramp users.
  • Higher parking revenues. The new parking system is projected to elevate parking-space usage to 95%. This significant increase in parking revenue is expected to provide a payback period of approximately two years.
  • Supporting environmental responsibility. Drivers spend less time driving in circles in search of parking spaces, thereby reducing fuel emissions.

“The Des Moines Airport has been proactive in overcoming its parking challenges. We’re honored to have serviced their parking gates and revenue systems for over a decade, and to continue our relationship through this installation and continued service agreement,” Ruschill adds.

Krakowski adds, “Baker Group was really critical to the success of this project. They were very responsive, proactive, responsible, competent and fun to work with. They’re just nice people.”

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